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Historical Glossary

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African Methodist Episcopal Zion church

 This denomination originated in 1796 when James Varick led black members of New York's John Street Methodist church to withdraw in protest at discriminatory treatment. In 1821 a conference representing six churches, 19 preachers, and 1,426 members organized the African Methodist Episcopal Zion church. Varick became the first bishop in 1822. By 1865 it had 30,600 members and 661 clergy. In 1990 it had 6,060 congregations and 1,220,260 members.

Agricultural Adjustment Act (1933)

(12 May 1933)    This law created the Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA) to stabilize farm income by setting price supports and capping crop acreage. Its provisions were eventually extended to cotton, tobacco, beef, pork, wheat, corn, barley, rye, potatoes, grain sorghum, flax, peanuts, sugar beets, and sugar cane. It was supplemented by the Jones–Connally Farm Relief Act, Jones–Costigan Sugar Act, Bankhead Cotton Control Act, Kerr–Smith Tobacco Control Act, and Warren Potato Control Act. The AAA operated the Commodity Credit Corporation. By spring 1934, 3,000,000 farmers had joined 4,000 local AAA marketing associations to set limits on output. The law inadvertently led to large-scale dispossession of tenants, especially cotton sharecroppers, who were evicted so that landlords could receive AAA stipends for taking land out of production; it consequently stimulated the migration of southern blacks to northern cities. The law was held unconstitutional on 6 January 1936 in United States v. Butler. Congress satisfied the Court's objections by passing the Soil Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act (1936) and another Agricultural Adjustment Act in 1938.

Agricultural Adjustment Act, second

(16 February 1938)    Congress revived the 1933 Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA) because the Soil Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act failed to keep an imbalance of supply over demand from depressing farm prices in 1937–8. To satisfy constitutional objections raised in United States v. Butler, Congress financed its operations from general revenues instead of taxes on food-processing companies; it also required compulsory crop-limitation programs to win two-thirds approval from affected farmers in special elections. The law used subsidies, loans, and soil conservation stipends as incentives for farmers to accept government limits on acreage in production; it established a permanent federal storage program to take surplus commodities off the market; it authorized the Commodity Credit Corporation to value surplus crops used as collateral on loans to farmers at parity; and it created the Federal Crop Insurance Corporation to insure wheat crops, and capitalized it at $100,000,000. It was held constitutional in Mulford v. Smith (1939).

Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA)

This agency supervised marketing agreements between farmers and local associations that attempted to raise commodity prices by restricting crop acreage and livestock production. To compensate farmers who agreed to limit output, the AAA paid them a fixed price for their reduced output until their commodities attained parity. The AAA also managed the Commodity Credit Corporation. After the Agricultural Adjustment Act (1933) was ruled unconstitutional, the AAA was continued under the Soil Conservation and Domestic Allotment Act and the second Agricultural Adjustment Act (1938).

Agricultural Credits Act

(4 March 1923) Because falling commodity prices cut farm income sharply, Congress funded relief through short-term credit for crop financing. This law created 12 federal intermediate credit banks, capitalized with $60,000,000, to lend to farm cooperatives, which would reloan the money to farmers.

Agricultural Marketing Act

(15 June 1929) This law created an eight-member federal farm board. The board promoted organization of agricultural cooperatives that could stabilize farm prices. The cooperatives could win voluntary agreement from farmers to reduce commodity surpluses by reducing land under cultivation, or they could purchase large amounts of commodities and hold them from sale until market prices rose. The sum of $500,000,000 was appropriated to loan to cooperatives for such purposes. In 1930 the Federal Farm Board set up its own marketing cooperatives to buy and hold cotton, grains, and wool. By 1931 the US was holding large amounts of these commodities, which could not be sold without large losses, but had failed to halt the steady decline in crop prices because it could not prevent overproduction by the majority of farmers, since the act's crop-limitation programs were entirely voluntary.

Agricultural Trade and Development Act

(10 July 1954)    To reduce the cost of US storage programs for surplus farm crops, this law gave the president authority for three years to exchange $1 billion in surplus food stocks for foreign currency, and use the money to promote US trade, buy strategic materials, or assist friendly nations. The law also allowed up to $300 million in surplus food to be donated as emergency famine relief overseas. It was renewed several times until replaced by the Food for Peace Act.

Air Mail Act

(12 June 1934)    Congress forbade several abusive practices that had developed under the Kelly Air Mail Act by denying air mail contracts to monopolies or holding companies, requiring competitive bids for all air mail contracts, setting maximum rates and mail loads, and directing the Interstate Commerce Commission to set “fair and reasonable” air mail rates.

air traffic controllers' strike

On 29 July 1981, the largest strike by federal employees began when 95 percent of the Professional Air Traffic Controllers' Organization (PATCO) walked out in violation of their employment oath. After failing to heed Ronald Reagan's demand to return to their terminals, 11,000 were fired on 5 August and PATCO ceased to exist. The system was rebuilt without any air disasters, using 521 military controllers to supplement the nonstrikers. In 1993, William Clinton gave fired PATCO strikers the right to apply for vacancies as air traffic controllers.

Aix-La-Chapelle, treaty of

(18 October 1748)    This treaty ended King George's War. Britain returned Louisbourg to France in exchange for certain concessions in Europe, but otherwise the situation in North America remained the same as in 1744. An Anglo-French boundary commission was established to determine the Nova Scotia–Acadian boundary, but it had reached no agreement by 1754.


In 1702, at Mobile Bay, France built Fort St Louis, the first white settlement in Ala. and capital of its La. colony until 1722. Anglo-American settlement began in 1805 at Huntsville, but proceeded slowly until after the Creek War. After becoming a territory on 3 March 1817, it grew rapidly (especially in the Black Belt region) and became the 22nd state on 14 December 1819. The Creek Indians were relocated west in 1834–5. Cotton-growing dominated its economy. By 1860 Ala. ranked 12th among states, with 964,201 inhabitants, of whom 45 percent were slaves and 1 percent were foreign-born; it stood 11th in the value of its farmland and livestock and 25th in manufactures.
Ala. became the third CSA state on 11 January 1861. In the Civil War, it furnished 75,000 CSA troops and 7,545 USA soldiers (2,576 white and 4,969 black). Ala. was the site of 336 military engagements.
In June 1865, Andrew Johnson instituted a provisional civilian government, which ended slavery in September. White supremacists took over the legislature and passed a black code (see black codes). Congress imposed military rule on 2 March 1867, but restored self-government and congressional representation on 25 June 1868. Republican control of Ala. ended six-and-a-half years later, on 14 November 1874. Ala. disfranchised most blacks in 1901 and then legislated segregation.
In 1900 it was the 18th state in size and had 1,828,697 people, who were 83 percent rural, 45 percent black, and 1 percent foreign-born; it ranked 19th in the value of its agricultural goods and 30th in manufactures. From 1920 to 1970, it lost 1,258,500 residents, mostly blacks moving to northern cities, and its racial composition shifted greatly. Ala. was a prominent battleground of the civil rights movement and site of the Montgomery bus boycott, the Birmingham desegregation violence, Selma freedom march, and Governor George Wallace's defiance of federal court orders to integrate the University of Alabama in 1963. By 1990 Ala. ranked as the 22nd state, with 4,040,587 residents (73 percent white, 25 percent black, 1 percent Hispanic, 1 percent Asian), of whom 67 percent were urban and 1.1 percent were foreign-born. Manufacturing employed 23 percent of the work force and mining 8 percent.

Alamance Creek, battle of

On 16 May 1771, Governor William Tryon's 1,300 militia (mostly from eastern N.C.) defeated 2,500 regulators (see regulator), mostly from western N.C., near Hillsborough. Tryon's losses: 9 killed and 61 wounded. Regulators' losses: about 20 killed and 100 wounded. The regulator uprising then ended.

Alamo, battle of the

On 24 February 1836, President Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna's 5,500 Mexicans began artillery bombardment of Colonel James Bowie and Lieutenant Colonel William Travis's garrison of 183 Texans at San Antonio's Alamo mission. On 6 March 1,100 attackers took the fortifications by storm. Texas losses: 175 killed, 8 captured (of whom 7 were murdered after surrendering and 1 Hispanic survived by claiming he had been a prisoner). Mexican losses: 1,600 killed, 500 wounded.


In 1741 Vitus Bering mapped the Aleutian Islands and nearby Alaskan coastline. On 22 September 1784, Russia founded its first permanent settlement at Three Saints Bay, Kodiak Island, and first occupied the Alaska panhandle near Sitka in 1799. The Russians used Alaska primarily as a source of sea otters and other furs, which were obtained by subjecting Eskimos and Aleuts to a brutal system of labor exploitation. The Tlingit Indians kept up a fierce resistance against Russian efforts to control them through the 1760s. Wishing to escape the cost of defending the colony from Tlingits and avoid its possible annexation to Canada, the Czar sold Seward's Folly to the US on 18 October 1867 for $7,200,000.
Washington did not appoint a governor until 1884, when Alaska contained about 33,000 natives and 430 whites, and did not make Alaska a territory until 24 August 1912. Commercial fishing and canning then became the biggest industry. After 1896, the main route for 50,000 miners who went to Canada's Klondike gold rush was via Alaska, where more gold was found at Nome in 1899 and Fairbanks in 1902. In 1900 Alaska had 63,592 inhabitants (approx. 48 percent white, 46 percent Indian, 5 percent Chinese), of whom 76 percent were rural and 20 percent were foreign-born; it ranked 49th in population, 51st in farm goods and 48th in manufactures. Few of the miners remained permanently, but development expanded by military facilities at Dutch Harbor, which were threatened in World War II by the Aleutian Islands campaign. The Alaskan highway, first land route to the territory, opened in 1942. The expansion of defense installations led the white population to double in both the 1940s and 1950s.
It became the 49th state on 3 January 1959, when it had 43,000 natives and 150,400 non-natives. In January 1968, the largest US oil field was discovered on the North Slope near Prudhoe Bay and began flowing in 1977 via the Alaska pipeline. Alaska ranked as the 49th state in 1990 with 550,043 residents (74 percent white, 15 percent Indian, 4 percent black, 3 percent Hispanic, 3 percent Asian), of whom 41 percent were urban and 4.5 percent were foreign-born. Manufacturing and mining employed 16 percent of workers.

Albany Congress

On 18 September 1753, Britain's Board of Trade directed N.Y. Lieutenant Governor, James De Lancey, to invite representatives from nearby provinces to meet with the Iroquois Confederacy, who gave signs of seeking closer relations with the French. Between 19 June and 10 July 1754, delegates from New England, N.Y., Pa., and Md. prevented an open break with the Iroquois by presenting them with gifts, but failed to gain their active support. The congress then debated the Albany Plan of Union.

Albany Plan of Union

As delegates to the Albany Congress, Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Hutchinson offered a proposal to unite the thirteen colonies on 19 June 1754. Their plan would have established a grand council composed of members elected by their legislatures in proportion to tax collections in each province, plus a president general named by the king to perform executive duties between council sessions. The government would have authority over Indian affairs and military defense, and could require the colonies to provide funds (in emergencies) according to a prearranged formula. Approved at Albany on 10 July, this plan of union was rejected (or ignored) by all the colonies. Despite the imminence of a war with the French, no assembly was willing to surrender any of its local autonomy—especially over taxes—to an outside legislative body.

Albany Regency

This was a political organization that evolved around Martin Van Buren and kept the N.Y. state government Democratic for most of 1820–50. By perfecting the method of winning votes with contracts and patronage, the Regency served as a model for later government machines managed by political bosses. The hunkers and barnburners fought over the Regency's control after 1844.

Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

De Tocqueville came from France to America in 1831. He observeddemocracy in government and society. His book (written in two parts in 1835 and 1840) discusses the advantages of democracy and consequences of the majority's unlimited power. First to raise topics of American practicality over theory, the industrial aristocracy, and the conflict between the masses and individuals 

Algonkin Indians

Speakers of one of the Algonquian languages. They lived along the eastern Great Lakes. They traded furs with the French and were their allies against the English. They now live in Ontario.

Algonquian languages

The largest family of Indian languages north of Mexico, Algonquian was spoken over much of eastern Canada, New England, the Atlantic coast north of S.C., the Ohio valley–Great Lakes region, and isolated parts of the Great Plains. Its major subdivisions are the languages of the Abnaki-Penobscot, Passamaquoddy, Micmac, Cree-Montagnais, Algonkin, Massachusett, Narragansett, Wampanoag, Mahican-Pequot, Delaware (Lenni Lenape), Powhatan, Shawnee, Miami, Kickapoo-Fox-Sauk, Potawatomi, Illinois, Chippewa, Ojibwa-Ottawa, Menominee, Arapaho, Cheyenne, Blackfoot-Piegan, and Gros Ventre Indians.

Alien and Sedition acts

With the US then engaged in an undeclared naval war with France, and French agents and spies known to be operating in the country, Congress declared that national security required passage of the Alien [Friends] Act, Alien Enemies Act, Naturalization Act (1798), and Sedition Act. Although enacted at a time when war with France seemed imminent, most of the laws were drafted so that they could also be used to muzzle Democratic party criticism of the Federalist party in the 1800 election.

Alien Enemies Act

(6 July 1798)    This law authorized the US to compel foreign citizens of an enemy power to register with the US in wartime, and provided further powers to detain or banish any aliens deemed dangerous. It went into effect in the War of 1812.

Alien [Friends] Act

(25 June 1798)    This law authorized the president to deport foreign citizens in peacetime if he believed them to be engaged in espionage or sowing treason among US citizens. Neither legal hearings nor proof of guilt was required. It was applied against several immigrant editors of newspapers supporting the Democratic party before it expired on 25 June 1800.


The tie or obligation of a subject to his Prince or government; the duty of fidelity to a king, government or state.  Every native or citizen owes allegiance to the government under which he is born.  This is called natural or implied allegiance, which arises from the connection of a person with the society in which he is born, and his duty to be a faithful subject, independent of any express promise.  Express allegiance, is that obligation which proceeds from an express promise, or oath of fidelity.

Local or temporary allegiance is due from an alien to the government or state in which he resides.

Webster's 1828

Allen, Ethan

(b. Litchfield, Conn., 10 January 1738; d. Burlington, Vt., 12 February 1789)    After moving to Vermont in 1772, Allen organized the Onion River Land Co. to speculate in land grants issued there by N.H. To protect his claims from rival speculators holding N.Y. titles, he organized the Green Mountain Boys. Allen became a major leader in the Vt. statehood movement. In the Revolutionary War, he took Fort Ticonderoga in 1775, was captured at Montreal on 25 September 1775, and exchanged on 6 May 1778. After the war, he continued working to make Vt. independent of N.Y.

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