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Historical Glossary

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Boone, Daniel

(b. near Reading, Pa., 2 November 1734; d. near St Charles, Mo., 26 September 1820)    In 1751 Boone settled in the N.C. backcountry. While a teamster en route to Braddock's Defeat, he first learned of Kentucky. As a long hunter, he explored Ky. (May 1769–March 1771), and became the foremost authority on its resources. He abandoned an attempt to settle Ky. in 1773 when Indians scalped one of his sons. (Boone later lost another son, a brother, and two brothers-in-law during the Indian wars, in which he was wounded twice and captured twice.) He helped the Transylvania Colony buy Ky. at the treaty of Sycamore Shoals, blazed the Wilderness Road and founded Boonesborough, which he held with just 60 men against a siege by 400 Indians and Canadian militia in September 1778. He achieved renown as a militia colonel and legislator, but was nearly ruined by land speculation, in which he lost 12,000 acres. Disgusted by the legal chaos surrounding land titles in Ky., he moved to Mo. in 1799.

Booth, John Wilkes

(b. near Bel Air, Md., 10 May 1838; d. near Bowling Green, Va., 26 April 1865)    A Shakespearean actor, Booth served in the Va. militia unit that captured John Brown at Harper's Ferry. In late 1864, he began conspiring with eight others to abduct Abraham Lincoln, but when the war ended he decided to assassinate the president, Andrew Johnson, Ulysses S. Grant, and William Seward. On 14 April, Booth shot Lincoln as he watched Our American Cousin at Ford's Theater shortly after 10 p.m., and co-conspirator Lewis Paine stabbed Seward. Booth was hunted down and shot on 26 April.

Boston massacre

On 5 March 1770, at 9:00 p.m., a crowd began harassing a British soldier on guard at the customs service's headquarters. After a captain and seven redcoats arrived, the soldiers became targets for snowballs, and then chunks of ice and staves. After one redcoat was knocked down by a block of ice, he fired his musket without orders and the other soldiers discharged theirs. The volley killed five and wounded six townspeople. The “massacre” revived opposition to British policies and led to the removal of British troops from Boston. On 30 October, John Adams convinced a Boston jury to acquit the soldiers of murder charges.

Boston Port Bill

(31 March 1774)    Reacting to the Boston Tea Party, Parliament gave the Boston town meeting until 1 June 1774 to make satisfaction for the Boston Tea Party by voting to reimburse the East India Company £9,000 for damages suffered. If restitution was not voted, the port would be closed to all traffic except cargoes of food necessary to prevent starvation. The ministry refused an offer by British merchants to post bond for the sum required and closed the harbor on 1 June when the town meeting refused to act. This law was one of the Intolerable Acts.

Boston Tea Party

When three ships carrying East India Company tea docked at Boston on 27 November 1773, Samuel Adams ' town officials tried peacefully to have the cargo sent back to England so that no taxes would be collected under Parliament's Tea Act, but Governor Thomas Hutchinson insisted on enforcing customs rules requiring the tea to be landed and taxed. On the last night before the tea would be unloaded, 80 men disguised as Indians boarded the ships (without violence) and heaved overboard 342 chests valued at £9,000. Parliament responded by passing the Intolerable Acts.

Boston, siege of

Following the battles of Lexington and Concord, New England militia besieged Boston. By June, 15,000 Yankees under General Artemus Ward encircled the city, held by 6,500 redcoats under General Thomas Gage. Defeat at Bunker Hill left the British too weak to break the siege. George Washington assumed the American command on 2 July. On 25 January 1777, Colonel Henry Knox arrived from Fort Ticonderoga with 52 cannon and nine mortars, which were mounted on Dorchester Heights and made Gage's position untenable. Gage evacuated the city on 17 March. The Yankees lost about 20 killed in the siege. With Boston's capture, the focus of the war shifted to New York, never again to return to New England.

Boynton v. Virginia

In 1960 the Supreme Court expanded the scope of  Morgan v. Virginia by ruling that a bus terminal doing business as part of an interstate transportation system could not segregate passengers traveling across state lines, even if the terminal's operations primarily involved intrastate commerce.

Bozeman Trail

Pioneered by John Bozeman in 1863–5, this route linked Fort Laramie, Wyo., with the Virginia City, Mont., gold fields; it was the scene of the second Sioux War. After 1877 it became an important route for bringing Texan cattle north.

Braddock's Defeat, battle of

On 9 July 1755, Captain Daniel de Beaujeu's 108 French regulars, 146 Canadian militia, and 650 Indians routed Major General Edward Braddock's 1,400 British and colonials (600 troops in reserve never engaged the enemy). British losses: 456 regulars killed (including Braddock) and 421 wounded, 60 colonials killed and 58 wounded, 13 cannon. French losses: 23 killed (including Beaujeu and 15 Indians), 16 wounded. The British retreated to Philadelphia and Indian attacks engulfed the frontier.

Bradford, William

(b. Austerfield, Yorkshire, England, 1590; d. Plymouth Colony, 19 May 1657)    A separating Puritan who moved to Amsterdam in 1609, Bradford was one of the Pilgrims who founded Plymouth in 1620. The next year he was elected the colony's second governor, and was reelected every year until 1656, except for 1633, 1634, 1636, 1638, and 1644. Bradford bore most of the responsibility for establishing policies that ensured Plymouth's political, economic, and military security. From about 1630 to 1651, he composed a History of Plimmoth Plantation, a comprehensive—and often eloquent—account of the colony's development.

Bradley v. Fisher

In 1872 the Supreme Court propounded (7–2) the doctrine of judicial immunity, which holds that in order to insulate court proceedings from any fear of later retribution, judges must be exempt from prosecution for all actions taken while performing their official duties—even if they misinterpret the law or cause injurious consequences.

Brandeis, Louis Dembitz

(b. Louisville, Ky., 13 November 1856; d. Washington, D.C., 5 October 1941)    At the age of 21, Brandeis received his law degree with the highest academic average ever earned at Harvard law school. Nicknamed the “people's attorney,” he was reviled in business circles for defending legislation in the Progressive Era to improve working conditions and break up concentrations of economic power like the money trust. He pioneered the use of statistical, economic, and sociological evidence in court with his “Brandeis brief” that won Muller v. Oregon. When nominated to the Supreme Court, he met strong resistance from big business for his political views and also found many in the American Bar Association opposing him because of anti-Semitism. His confirmation was delayed five months, but on 1 June 1916 he became the Court's first Jewish justice. Long in the minority in a conservative court, he often joined in dissent with Oliver W. Holmes and Harlan Stone. He retired at 82 and devoted himself to philanthropic work.

Brandywine Creek, battle of (Pa.)

On 11 September 1777, General William Howe's 12,500 British troops defeated General George Washington's 11,000 Continentals. US losses: about 300 killed, about 300 wounded, 315 captured, and 11 cannon lost. British losses: 90 killed, 448 wounded, and 6 missing. Howe's victory prompted Congress to evacuate Philadelphia.

Brant, Joseph

(b. N.Y., 1742; d. Grand River, Ontario, 24 November 1807)    A Mohawk Indian leader, Brant was brother-in-law to Sir William Johnson. He fought with the British in Pontiac's War. In the Revolutionary War, he was the principal Iroquois Confederacy war leader under the British; he led the raid on Cherry Valley, was defeated in Sullivan's campaign, and then raided the Ohio valley settlements. He relocated in Canada after N.Y. confiscated his plantation. He established the first Episcopal church in Upper Canada.

Breedlove v. Suttles

On 6 December 1937, the Supreme Court upheld unanimously a Ga. law that disfranchised any adult who did not pay a $1.00 poll tax; it held that the tax violated neither the equal protection guaranteed by the Fourteenth Amendment nor the Fifteenth Amendment's protection of black voters. The Court held poll taxes unconstitutional in Harper v. Virginia State Board of Elections.

Bretton Woods conference (N.H.)

During 1–22 July 1944, the US and 43 other countries met to establish a framework for world trade and economic development that would avoid a repetition of the Great Depression. Its goals were to avoid competitive devaluations among nations, stabilize price levels, and encourage the flow of investment capital needed by international business. Its main feature was a fixed-rate exchange system based on gold to stabilize world currencies and to provide for any revaluations required by balance-of-payments adjustments or changes in national reserves of gold or foreign currencies.
All nations agreed to keep their currencies pegged at certain rates to gold, and the US dollar unofficially replaced the British pound sterling as the world's reserve currency for trade and international credit (at $35 per ounce of gold). The conference founded the International Monetary Fund (capitalized at $8,800,000,000, of which the US donated 25 percent) and International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (capitalized at $9,100,000,000, of which the US donated 35 percent).
The Bretton Woods system was fatally undermined on 15 August 1971, when Richard Nixon suspended the dollar's convertibility into gold to end a run on US gold reserves. At Washington on 17–18 December 1971, international finance ministers created a new system of fixed exchange rates for their currencies and raised the value of gold to $38 per ounce, but the US refused to resume the convertibility of dollars into gold. At Basel, Switzerland, on 12 November 1973, US and European central bank governors terminated the Bretton Woods gold agreement by allowing the US dollar and European currencies to float against one another based on exchange rates set by the market place. The US Federal Reserve system thereafter acted alone to control the dollar's foreign exchange rates. The European monetary system was established on 13 March 1979 to maintain an appropriate relationship between western Europe's major currencies.

Bricker amendment

On 7 January 1953, Senator John Bricker (Republican, Ohio) proposed a constitutional amendment that would prevent any treaty from taking effect as US internal law unless authorized by special congressional legislation. (Bricker feared that UN treaties might entail provisions infringing US sovereignty or compromising the free-market economic system.) Dwight D. Eisenhower's opposition stopped the amendment, which failed (50–42) on 25 February 1954. On 26 February, the Senate considered an alternative offered by Walter George (Democrat, Ga.), which would have invalidated any treaty whose provisions violated the Constitution; it killed George's version by one vote short of the two-thirds majority required (60–31). Defeat of the Bricker amendment left it possible for treaties to take effect even when their terms conflicted with the Constitution, as under Missouri v. Holland.

Briscoe v. Bank of Kentucky

 In 1837 the Supreme Court (6–1) gave states authority to regulate banks and their paper money by ruling that legislatures could charter banks empowered to issue notes for general circulation, if those notes did not have legal tender status but rather were private obligations voluntarily accepted from a corporation that could sue and be sued in court over contracts concerning the notes' value. It further stipulated that even if all of a bank's stock were owned by the state that issued its charter, it might still issue notes.

British immigration

Prior to 1775, the thirteen colonies were settled by English, Scottish, Scotch-Irish, and Welsh immigration, about 337,000 people altogether. By 1820 their descendants numbered about 6,250,000, or about 80 percent of all whites. From 1820 to 1991, 5,135,918 immigrants arrived from Great Britain and Northern Ireland—plus 784,796 British Canadians—a number exceeded only by arrivals from Germany. The 1990 census counted 31,421,362 persons who described their primary ethnic identity as British (16 percent of all whites), but this figure failed to take into account that the great majority of the 18 percent of whites who failed to identify their European origins were “old stock” Anglo-Saxons who had long lost any sense of kinship with Europe. The British stock probably included 25–34 percent of whites, and was the largest US ethnic group.

broken voyage

This was a subterfuge by the US merchant marine to evade the Rule of 1756. Because France and Spain had forbidden US ships to carry cargoes directly between their ports in peacetime, they could not, by the Rule, allow such trade in the Napoleonic wars. US shippers nevertheless began carrying much of the exports from French and Spanish colonies to their home countries by taking these cargoes to a US port and obtaining a customs clearance for France or Spain. British courts ruled this stratagem illegal in the Essex case.

Brook Farm

This utopian community, organized on the principles of transcendentalism was founded by George Ripley in 1841 near Boston, and reorganized as a phalanx of Fourierism in 1845. Nathaniel Hawthorne was a temporary resident, and Ralph W. Emerson visited there. It disbanded after a fire in 1846.

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1954)

In Topeka, Kansas in the 1950s, schools were segregated by race. Each day, Linda Brown and her sister had to walk through a dangerous railroad switchyard to get to the bus stop for the ride to their all-black elementary school. There was a school closer to the Brown's house, but it was only for white students. Linda Brown and her family believed that the segregated school system violated the Fourteenth Amendment and took their case to court. Federal district court decided that segregation in public education was harmful to black children, but because all-black schools and all-white schools had similar buildings, transportation, curricula, and teachers, the segregation was legal. The Browns appealed their case to Supreme Court stating that even if the facilities were similar, segregated schools could never be equal to one another. The Court decided that state laws requiring separate but equal schools violated the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (1955)

On 31 May 1955, the Supreme Court issued unanimous guidelines for desegregating schools. It vested federal district courts with jurisdiction to supervise this process, but gave the task of implementation to school boards. These received flexibility to end segregation according to timetables based on local circumstances, but that moved ahead “with all deliberate speed.” Federal district courts would supervise this process, and could extend deadlines for desegregation, but only if school boards showed good faith. Local resistance led the Supreme Court to rule on federal desegregation orders in Green v. County School Board of New Kent county, Swann v. Charlotte-Mecklenberg County Board of Education, Keyes v. Denver School District Number 1, Milliken v. Bradley, Pasadena City Board of Education v. Spangler, and Board of Education of Oklahoma City v. Dowell. By 1968, 76 percent of black children attended mostly minority schools, and 66 percent still did in 1994. Over 450 school districts remained under federal court supervision to ensure desegregation as late as May 1994.

Brown v. Maryland

In 1827 the Supreme Court (6–1) limited the states' legislative powers over foreign trade through the “original package” doctrine. This declared that, so long as imports remained in the containers or wrapping delivered to the importer, they were interstate commerce subject only to congressional regulation. Only when such items became “mixed up with the mass of property in the country,” could the states tax or pass other laws concerning them. Brown formed an important precedent for expanding federal authority over interstate commerce. (See also Cooley v. Board of Wardens and passenger cases) In Woodruff v. Parham (1869), the Court affirmed a state's right to tax “imports” manufactured in another state, once the goods have ceased to be part of interstate commerce, even if they are in their original packages, because the Constitution (Article I, Section 10) only prohibits state duties on foreign imports.

Brown v. Mississippi

On 17 February 1936, the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that state courts violated due process if they allowed testimony extorted under extreme police duress to be used in convicting a person who confessed or otherwise spoke unwillingly.

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