Friday 19 January 2018
Search - Content
Search SEO Glossary
Contact Us

Historical Glossary

There are 2249 entries in this glossary.
Search for glossary terms (regular expression allowed)
Begin with Contains Exact termSounds like
All A B C D E F G H I J K L M O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z
Allgeyer v. Louisiana

On 1 March 1897, the Supreme Court ruled without dissent that the Fourteenth Amendment protected the right to make contracts free of state interference as a guarantee of due process; it invalidated a law barring out-of-state companies from selling insurance in La. The Court extended Allgeyer's logic to cases involving business regulation in Holden v. Hardy, Lochner v. New York, and Adkins v. Children's Hospital.

American Antislavery Society

On 4 December 1833, William Lloyd Garrison, James Birney, Robert Purvis, Arthur Tappan, Theodore Weld, Wendell Phillips, and 55 others founded this organization to campaign for abolitionism. It publicized its views through the  Liberator. The society split between followers of Garrison, who advocated the immediate end of slavery and denied that it deserved any constitutional protections, and supporters of Birney, who favored gradual abolition legally accomplished by political means. Most of its members belonged to the Garrison camp.

American Board of Customs Act

(29 June 1767)    Charles Townshend proposed this law to end jurisdiction by London's Customs Board over the colonies and to establish a separate American Customs Board, with headquarters at Boston. Utilizing ambiguous or ill-considered provisions of trade statutes like the Sugar Act, the board's agents often broke the spirit of the law to press smuggling charges based on innocent, technical mistakes made by merchants or ship captains in loading cargoes. Abuses of authority by the American Customs Board officials became a serious cause of alienation from parliamentary authority in seafaring towns. Resentment against this body turned violent in the Liberty riot and HMS  Gaspee incident. The service was reformed by Britain in the early 1770s.

American Booksellers Association v. Hudnut

On 24 February 1986, the Supreme Court declined an appeal from Indianapolis to overturn a federal circuit court's decision to declare its anti-obscenity ordinance unconstitutional. Indianapolis had attempted to eliminate pornography by defining it as a violation of women's collective civil rights and allowing women to sue for damages. The Court upheld the lower court's position that characterizing pornography as discrimination entailed censorship of ideas that went beyond the high court's definition of obscenity in Miller v. California.

American Colonization Society

 In 1816 this organization was founded to raise funds for financing the settlement of free blacks in Africa. Its first president was Supreme Court Justice Bushrod Washington (nephew of the president), and members included Henry Clay and John Randolph of Roanoke. The society's ultimate aim was to encourage more masters to emancipate their bondsmen, by ending white fears that, once released from the controls of slavery, blacks would be unable to support themselves and would either become financial wards of local government or criminals. It reasoned that if masters expected that free blacks would leave the US, they would manumit more of them. The legislatures of Va., Md., Ky., N.C., and Miss. endorsed the society's mission. Through 1831, the society helped 1,420 blacks reach Liberia, whose governing elite was descended from US slaves until a military coup in 1980.

American Communications Association, CIO, et al. v. Douds

On 8 May 1950, the Supreme Court rejected arguments (5–1) that the Taft–Hartley Act's Section 9—which compelled labor union officers to swear they were not Communists—constituted a bill of attainder, an ex post facto law, and a violation of the First Amendment.

American Federation of Labor

In May 1881, the Federation of Organized Trade and Labor Unions of the US and Canada was founded at Pittsburgh; its 13 craft unions were reorganized at Columbus, Ohio, on 8 December 1886 as the American Federation of Labor, with Samuel Gompers as the first president. It limited its membership to skilled workers and allowed each craft union to be self-governing within the federation; it pursued a nonpolitical agenda of higher wages, shorter work hours, and better workplace conditions. The panic of 1893 stimulated its growth, and by 1904 it contained 1,676,200 members. It then grew to 2,020,670 by 1914 and 3,260,000 by 1920, at which size it stabilized until the Great Depression, during which it lost 2,000,000 members.
The New Deal's pro-labor laws enabled it to rebound to 3,045,350 in 1935 and 9,000,000 in 1943. The AFL was the dominant force in American unionism and usually accounted for 70–80 percent of all non-company union members during 1904–35. In 1935 it allowed the newly-formed Committee of Industrial Organization to organize industrial unions, but expelled these unions in May 1938. On 5 December 1955, it merged with the CIO as the AFL-CIO.

American Federation of Labor-Congress of Industrial Organizations

The traditional hostility between these groups subsided after George Meaney took over the AFL and Walter Reuther took over the CIO. Both unions perceived a need to combat an anti-labor political atmosphere symbolized by the Taft–Hartley Act. On 5 December 1955, the AFL's 109 unions (10,900,000 members) merged with the CIO's 32 unions (5,200,000 members). Meaney became president and Reuther vice-president. The AFL-CIO included 90 percent of US unionized workers and 33.6 percent of nonagricultural laborers. It expelled the Teamsters, Laundry and Dry-cleaning Workers, and Bakery Workers in December 1957 for violating anti-racketeering standards. Reuther's disagreements with Meaney over strategy resulted in his leading the 1,339,000 United Auto Workers out of the AFL-CIO in 1968. After replacing Meaney as president in 1979, (Joseph) Lane Kirkland engineered a reconciliation with the Auto Workers in July 1981, and readmitted the 1,100,000 Teamsters in October 1987. AFL-CIO membership declined from 16,100,000 in 1955 to 13,933,000 in 1991, about 15 percent of nonagricultural workers.

American Peace Society

Founded in 1828 by William Laddit. Formally condemned all wars, though it supported the U.S. government during the Civil War, WWI, and WWII. It was dissolved after the United Nations was formed in 1945.

American Plan

Between 1919 and 1929, the National Association of Manufacturers led the US business community in a major offensive against labor unions under this name (it was also termed welfare capitalism). To lessen the appeal of unionization, it promoted voluntary wage hikes, workweek reductions, and improved workplace conditions. It fought to replace union shops with “open shops,” in which workers were free not to join a union. It also encouraged businesses to organize their own company unions. The plan helped set back labor, and membership in non-company unions fell from 5,034,000 in 1920 to 3,567,000 in 1928.

American System

Henry clay's program to stimulate national economic development was known by this term. Under Clay's system, Congress would foster manufacturing by protective tariffs, ensure the stable currency necessary for interstate business transactions through a national bank, and link farmers to urban and overseas markets by funding internal improvements from western land sales. Clay's goal was to have each region of the US serve as an ever-expanding domestic market for the others' goods, so that northern industrial centers might buy foodstuffs and cotton from westerners and southerners, who in turn would buy northern manufactures.American System

Amnesty Act

22 May 1872)    Motivated in part by fears that the Liberal Republican party's call for reconciliation with the South would hurt their chances in the coming presidential election, Republicans in Congress restored the rights of voting and holding office to about 150,000 ex-Confederate military and government officers, and left just 500 of the highest-ranking CSA leaders excluded from political activity.


Anarchism is the political philosophy that holds that the destruction of government authority will yield justice and equality in society. 


Anarchy is the condition resulting from an absence of governing forces. Often synonymous with chaos or disorder. 

Anasazi Culture

This culture (Anasazi means “Ancient Ones”) began emerging about 100 BC around the modern juncture of Ariz., N.Mex., Colo., and Utah. It paralleled the Mogollon Culture in creating sedentary agricultural villages and developing handcrafts. The Anasazi were the most advanced Indian basket makers to AD 750, and were the first Indians to build pueblos from stone or adobe, instead of pit houses, after 750. Between 1276 and 1299, an extended drought led to the abandonment of mesa-top pueblos like Mesa Verde, Colo., and the people's resettlement along the Rio Grande in N.Mex.

Andersonville Prison (Ga.)

This was the most infamous of prisoner of war camps during the Civil War. While operational from February 1864 to April 1865, it confined only enlisted men. In mid-1864, its 26 acres held 32,899 Union prisoners. Malnourishment, contaminated water, inadequate medical care, and insufficient housing led to monthly death rates that peaked at 3,000 in August 1864. The US later identified a minimum of 12,912 soldiers who died there. Hanged on 10 November 1865 for abetting these deaths, commandant Henry Wirz was the only person executed by the US for serving the Confederacy.

Anglican church

This church was the colonial extension of the Church of England; it never had a resident bishop and was under the archbishop of Canterbury's supervision. Its first parish was founded at Jamestown, Va., in 1607. The number of parishes grew from 41 in 1660 to 111 in 1700, and 246 in 1740, but many were always vacant. It became the established church in every southern colony and four N.Y. counties. The Great Awakening influenced many of its communicants to join the Presbyterian or Baptist churches. In 1776 there were 383 Anglican parishes with 500,000 members (25 percent of all whites); 54 percent of its parishes were in the South, 25 percent in the middle colonies, and 21 percent in New England. Because most Anglican clergy were Tories who left the country during the Revolution, the church declined greatly after the war. Va. and Md. disestablished it in 1776, N.C., Ga., and N.Y. in 1777, and S.C. in 1778. It was revived as the Protestant Episcopal church.

Anglo-Dutch War, first

In July 1652, England declared war on the Netherlands. In June 1653, Mass. vetoed a planned attack upon New Netherland by the United Colonies of New England, which required unanimous consent for war. Conn. agents failed to incite English towns on Long Island to rebel against Dutch rule, but seized the Dutch West India Company's trading post of Fort Good Hope (near Hartford) on 5 July 1653 and refused to return it at the end of the war. An English fleet sent to capture New Amsterdam was recalled at Boston with news that hostilities had ended in April 1654.

Anglo-Dutch War, second

In December 1664, the Netherlands and England went to war. On 7 September 1664, Peter Stuyvesant had surrendered New Netherland without resistance to a task force of four frigates, 300 redcoats, and 2,000 Yankee militia at New Amsterdam. English forces peacefully occupied Fort Orange (Albany) on 20 September and took Fort Casimir, Del., by storm on 10 October. In June 1667, a Dutch warship captured 19 merchant vessels and a Royal Navy frigate in Va.'s James River. On 21 July 1667, the peace of Breda ended the war and awarded New Netherland to England.

Anglo-Dutch War, third

In March 1672, the Netherlands and England went to war. In July 1673, eight Dutch men-of-war under Cornelius Evertsen and Jacob Binkes raided Chesapeake Bay and captured or burned 11 English ships in the James River. After a brief bombardment on 8 August, they captured New York City's British garrison and appointed their marines' captain, Anthony Colve, governor of “New Orange” (former New Netherland). Suffolk County's English towns on east Long Island annexed themselves to Conn., but N.Y. and N.J. accepted Dutch rule. On 19 February 1674, the treaty of Westminster returned N.Y. and N.J. to England, which did not reinstall its own government until 10 November.

Anglo-Spanish War

 (1727–8)    After Spain declared war on Britain in February 1727, Yamasee Indians from Fla. killed five S.C. fur traders. On 9 March 1728, Colonel John Palmer's 100 S.C. militia and 100 Creek Indians burned the Yamasees' fortified village beneath the guns of St Augustine. S.C. losses: few. Yamasee losses: 30 killed, 15 prisoners. The victory greatly raised British prestige among the southeastern Indians. Spain made peace with Britain in March 1728.

Annapolis convention

ollowing the successful Mount Vernon conference, Va. called for a convention at Annapolis to discuss solutions to commercial problems among the states. Of nine states that accepted the invitation, only the delegations of Va., Pa., Del., N.J., and N.Y. arrived in time to participate during 11–14 September. The delegates elected John Dickinson chair, turned their attention from commerce to politics, and endorsed an address by Alexander Hamilton proposing that a convention meet in May 1787 to discuss strengthening the Articles of Confederation. Congress endorsed the idea on 21 February 1787 and recommended that the states send delegates to the Constitutional Convention.


(pronounced an-tee-bel-uhm) A term often used to describe the United States of America before the outbreak of the Civil War.



This name was applied to opponents of the federal Constitution during the ratification process. Among the leading Antifederalists were Patrick Henry and George Mason of Va., George Clinton of N.Y., and Elbridge Gerry of Mass. They were strongest in N.H., R.I., Mass., N.Y., Va., and N.C. The Anti-federalists' most important contribution was to orchestrate a surge of public opinion demanding adoption of the Bill of Rights.

Antietam, battle of

On 17 September 1862, Major General George B. McClellan's 75,316 Federals inflicted heavy casualties on General Robert E. Lee's 51,844 Confederates, but were unable to break the Southern lines. USA losses: 2,108 killed, 9,549 wounded, 753 missing. CSA losses: 2,700 killed, 9,024 wounded, 2,000 missing. Interpreted as a Union victory because Lee retreated from Md. the next day, Antietam created the position of military strength needed for Abraham Lincoln to issue the Emancipation Proclamation.

All A B C D E F G H I J K L M O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z