Key Terms American Culture


Those who wanted the immediate emancipation of the slaves. Protests against SLAVERY are recorded in America as early as 1624 although no specific action was taken until the Quakkers conducted a poll in 1688 in Germantown, Pa. On the eve of the Revolution abolitionist sentiment had become widespread throughout the British colonies. JEFFERSON'S first draft of the Declaration of Independence had included an attack against the institution. Anti-slavery societies were founded during and after the Revolution, exercising a sufficient influence to bring about emancipation in most of the northern states. The American Colonization Society was established in 1816 as the first abolitionist organization. As a result of the work of WILLIAM LLOYD GARRISON in 1828 the American Anti-Slavery Society was founded in 1833 as a coalition of regional organizations dedicated to abolition. Simultaneously, in the South, such men as JAMES G. BIRNEY, Cassius M. Clay, John G. Fee, Hinton Helper, and John Rankin carried on abolitionist work. Garrison, BENJAMIN LUNDY, ELIJAH LOVEJOY, and the New England group of THODORE PARKER, HENRY WARD BEECHER, WILLIAM ELLERY CHANNING, WENDELL PHILLIPS, and JAMES G. WHITTIER demanded the immediate, uncompensated emancipation of all slaves. Although schisms among them prevented unified programs their influence was potent enough to bring about political action in the formation of the Liberty and Freesoil Parties. Politics thereafter became abolition's strongest weapon. The contribution of HARRIET BEECHER STOWE'S Uncle Tom's Cabin, the personal liberty laws, and the polemics of abolitionist congressmen served to highlight the problem on the eve of the Civil War.

Agrarian Ideal

The concept that supplanted the economic doctrine of Mercantilism towards the end of the 18th century, held that the American farmer, not the merchant, was the backbone of the expanding nation. Grèvecoerur, Franklin, John Taylor of Caroline, and thousands more envisaged America as a land of almost limitless expanse, capable of supporting millions. Self-contained and centering on the Mississippi valley, the land and its vast natural resources should be molded, the theory held, to create a new society whose members would live in independence and dignity under simple laws. The agrarian ideal determined Jefferson's policies of state. For 30 years (1821-51) Thomas Hart Benton (1782-1857) was its chief proponent, giving his congressional support to Federal aid to western exploration and expansion. At the outbreak of the Civil War the major political parties were still in part aligned on the issue of whether the mercantile control of the East and North or the physical geography of the South and West would determine the nation's destiny. Chief among the new forces that shattered the ideal was the technological revolution wrought by steam in the decade following the Civil War. Communications and rail transport improved, and the growth of industry assured the continuing prosperity of commercial agriculture. Thus the increased accumulation of capital in the interior of the continent, and the consequent growth of such metropolitan cities as St. Louis, Chicago, and Cleveland, effected an Agricultural Revolution, and brought an end to the agrarian ideal.


Changes in, or additions to, a constitution. In the United States Constitution, Article V spells out the methods. Amendments may be proposed by a two-thirds vote of both houses of the Congress or by a convention called by the Congress at the request of the legislatures of two thirds of the states. Only the first method has been used (until 1966). Such proposals must be ratified by either the legislatures of three fourths of the states or by conventions called for that purpose in three fourths of the states, as determined by the Congress. Only the 21st Amendment (repealing prohibition) was submitted to conventions. The President may not veto an amendment proposal. Congress may stipulate a time limit, usually seven years, within which a proposal must be ratified. A state which has rejected an amendment may change its mind, but once a proposal is ratified by a state legislature, it stands. Ratification by a state may not be accomplished by a referendum of the people, but only by the legislature or convention.

American Dream

The term was first used by James Truslow Adams, an American historian, in his book The Epic of America, in 1931: [The] American Dream [is] the dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for every man with opportuniy for each according to his ability or achievement.


The carrying of a case form a lower court to a higher tribunal. The term is also used to identify those types of cases which may be carried to the United States Supreme Court as a matter of right; these include cases from federal courts and highest state courts when state or federal laws are declared in conflict with the Constitution or a treaty. Such cases are brought to the Supreme Court on appeal.

Articles of Confederation

The name of the compact made among the original 13 states. Though prepared in 1776, it was not officially adopted by all states until 1781, and lasted until 1789, when it was replaced by the United States Constitution. The confederation was a league of sovereign states. Each state had one vote in a one-hose legislature. No provision was made in the Articles for a separate national executive or judiciary. The Congress was assigned a limited number of powers but the approval of nine states was necessary for effective action. Significant powers which the central government lacked included the power to tax, to regulate commerce or the currency, or to make its laws directly applicable to the people without further state action. In short, the Congress could not force states or individuals to comply with its decisions, resembling, in many respects, an international organization. Any amendments to the Articles required the unanimous approval of the 13 states.

Attorney General

The head of the Justice Department and a member of the President's Cabinet. He serves as legal advisor to the President and to all agencies of the executive branch and is the chief law-enforcement officer of the United States. The Attorney General directs the work of federal district attorneys, United States Marshals, and federal penal institutions. Criminal investigations and the conduct of lawsuits involving the United States fall under his charge. An attorney general is also found in each of the states, where he is frequently an elected official. He, too, serves as legal advisor and law-enforcement officer.

Bill of Rights

First Congress of the United States originally proposed twelve amendments in 1789. The Bill of Rights refers to the first ten amendments to the Constitution which guarantee Civil Liberties against infringement by Congress. Of the amendments, added to the Constitution in 1791, only the first prohibits congressional and state legislative action, the other nine applying only against congressional infringment. Among the more important of the rights therein assured are freedom of speech, press, and religion; trial by jury; grand jury indictment; guarantees against cruel and unusual punishments, excessive bail, and unreasonable searches and seizures.

Black Panthers

1966 von Huey Percy Newton (1942-1989) und Bobby George Seale (1937- ) gegründete militante Organisation. Die beiden vor allem durch MALCOLM X beeinflußten Gründer formulierten in Oakland ein 10-Punkte Programm, worin sie volle Gleichheit der Schwarzen mit den Weißen, Freistellung vom Militärdienst, die Entlassung von Schwarzen aus dem Strafvollzug und schwarze Geschworene für schwarze Angeklagte forderten. Bis 1972 vermehrten sich die Black Panthers auf etwa 2000 Mitglieder, doch verloren sie bald, nicht zuletzt durch polizeilichen Aktionen, an Bedeutung.

Black Power

Sammelruf militanter schwarzen Aktivisten ab den 1960er Jahren, der die Absicht des Gewaltgebrauchs zur Erreichung größerer Kontrolle über die eigenen Abgelegenheiten mit einschloß. Der Begriff wurde von P. L. R. ROBSON aufgenommen, verlor in den 1970er Jahren aber allmählich an Sammelkraft.


A meeting of party members in one of the houses of a legislative body for the purpose of making decisions on selections of party leaders and on legislative business. Republicans in the Congress prefer to call their party meeting a conference.

Charter Colonies

Were first established by Trading Companies under charters from the crown, but they very early changed their status. In 1624 Virginia became a royal colony, the first in English history; and Massachusetts did so seven years after its charter was revoked (1684). Connecticut and Rhode Island were founded as squatter colonies by dissenting Puritans from Massachusetts, but they later received charters of incorporation. The failure of the Virginia Company and the moribund state of the Council For New England by 1630 persuaded the King to set up Proprietary Colonies, and the next royal grant (1632), that of Maryland to Lord Baltimore, was of the feudal type, as were all succeeding grants. When the government of Charles II (after 1660) sought to build a colonial policy, it found charters an obstacle, and with a view to consolidation it established the Dominion Of New England under a royal governor (1686-89). Though the failure of that attempt created some reaction in favor of charter colonies, in general the people preferred to be governed as Royal Colonies, and by 1776 there remained only two proprietary colonies (Maryland and Pennsylvania) and two incorporated colonies (Connecticut and Rhode Island).

Checks and balances

As described in Federalist Paper No. LI on February 8, 1788 it is a system of contriving the interior structure of the government [so] that its several constituent parts may, by their mutual relations, be the means of keeping each other in their proper places. Popularly attributed to the French political philosopher Montesquieu this device is designed to provide a check by each branch of a government upon the others, the result being a balance of powers. It is assumed to develop out of Separation of Powers theory which Montesquieu propounded.

Closed Primary

The selection of a party's candidates in an election limited to avowed party members. Voters must declare their party affiliation either when they register or at the primary election. The closed-primary system is designed to stop the crossover of registered voters into the other party's primary for the purpose of trying to nominate its weakest candidates. Independent voters are altogether excluded form participating in the nominating process in closed-primary states. Thirty-seven states use the closed primary.


A rule in the Senate under which debate might be limited and a filibuster broken. One sixth of the Senate membership can initiate action under cloture by petitioning the Senate to close debate on a pending measure. If such a petition is approved by two thirds of the senators voting, thereafter no senator may speak for more than one hour on the bill being considered.

Compromise Act of 1850

Also known as the Omnibus Bill of 1850. Submitted by HENRY CLAY as the last of his three great compromises. The Act resulted from the conflict arising out of the petition of California for admission to the union as a free state. As ultimately adopted the Act provided for California's admission as a free state, the division of the Mexican Cession into the territories of New Mexico and Utah based on the principle of Popular Sovereignty, the Abolition of the Slave Trade in the District of Columbia, a stricter Fugitive Slave Law, and a reduction in the size of the state of Texas. In addition a payment of $10,000,000 was made to Texas by Congress, theoretically as compensation for the Texas war debt accrued prior to 1845. The law bitterly contested in the Senate, being opposed by WEBSTER. Webster's famous Seventh of March Speech is generally acknowledged as one of the highlights of his career.

Connecticut Compromise

The agreement reached in the Constitutional Convention of 1787 which resolved the question of representation in the national Congress. Each state is represented in the House of Representatives according to population and in the Senate each state is represented equally. The Compromise, also called the Great Compromise, satisfied the small states in particular and made it possible for them to agree to the establishment of a strong central government. It is generally agreed that the Compromise was the crucial step in the formulation of the Constitution.


Written in 1787 and accepted by most states in 1788 the United States Constitution went into effect on March 4, 1789. It is the supreme law of the land. Its basic principles include limited government, popular sovereignty, separation of powers, checks and balances, and federalism. The constitution ensured a balance of powers on two levels to prevent the abuse of power: Between the national government and state governments and between the three branches of government — legislative, executive and judicial.

Declaration of Independence

The document adopted by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, declaring the independence of the American colonies form Great Britain and justifying the rebellion. It was drafted by a committee composed of Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, Benjamin Franklin, Roger Sherman, and Robert Livingston. The draft was largely the work of Jefferson who drew heavily form the natural rights doctrine of the English philosopher, John Locke. The Declaration enumerated the grievances against the Crown and contained an eloquent defense of the rights of man and the right of self-government.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

Dred Scott vs. Standford

Decision by the United States Supreme Court in 1857 invalidation the Missouri Compromise Act of 1820. This decision was the result of an obiter dictum since the fundamental issue in the case involved the Citizenship of Dred Scott, a slave who had been taken by his master into free territory form the slave state of Missouri. The case also established the principle of Citizenship that prevailed until the adoption of the 14th Amendment in 1868.

Electoral College

The presidential electors form each state who meet in their respective state capitals, following their popular election, and cast ballots for president and vice president. The process starts with the nomination of partisan slates of electors by party conventions, primaries, or committees in each state. The number of electors in each state is equal to its representation in both houses of the Congress. In the November presidential election, the slate of electors receiving a plurality of popular votes is elected. The electors have pledged themselves to vote for their party's candidates for president and vice president, although the Constitution still permits them to use discretion. After casting electoral ballots in their respective state capitals in December, the ballots are forwarded to Washington, D.C., counted, and certified before a joint session of the Congress early in January. The candidates who receive a majority of the electoral votes are certified as president-elect and vice president-elect.

Ellis Island

Emancipation Proclamation

Issued by President LINCOLN on September 23, 1862 as a war measure designed to gain world public support of the Union cause. It provided that all slaves would be declared free in those states still in rebellion against the United States on January 1, 1863. Under these provisions slaves were freed only in those states which, after that date, came under the military control of Union armies. The Proclamation did no apply to the border states of Delaware, Kentucky, Maryland and Missouri, nor to that part of the Confederacy already occupied by Northern troops such as Tennessee and parts of Virginia and Louisiana. Several states availed themselves of the opportunity to adopt Abolition measures in 1864 and 1865. It should be clear from the above that the document did not abolish slavery as is commonly believed. Abolition did not occur until the adoption of the 13th Amendment in 1865.


The Equal Rights Amendment, written by Alice Paul and sponsored by the National Woman's Party, was first proposed in 1923, on the seventy-fifth anniversary of the 1848 Seneca Falls women's rights convention. Inspired by the 19th Amendment, which had just secured equal suffrage for women, it was intended to push the feminist cause beyond political equality. The original wording declared that men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and in every place subject to its jurisdiction. From 1966 the wording demanded that equal rights under the law shall not be abridged or denied … on account of sex. The ERA won congressional approval in 1972. Despite a congressionally authorized extension of the process to 1982, only thirty states ratified the amendment and it died.

Federalist Papers

Are the unique collection of 85 essays gathered and published as The Federalist (2 vols., 1788). Seventy-seven of the papers originally appeared in New York newspapers (1787-88) over the signature Publius, and eight were added later. Probably 50 of the essays were written by Alexander Hamilton. some 30 by James Madison, and about 5 by John Jay. They urged adoption of the Federal Constitution, which at that time was before the states for ratification, by stressing the inadequacy of the Articles of Confederation and expounding the principles of republican government embodied in the instrument under consideration. They were widely reprinted in newspaper elsewhere. Notable as a profound treatise on political science, the Federalist Papers were of crucial importance in the founding of the American nation, for they shaped public opinion and won support for the documents that became the basic law of the land. Thomas Jefferson pronounced them the best commentary on the principles of government which has ever been written. Justice Joseph Story called them incomparable, and Chancellor James Kent thought them superior to Montesquieu, Milton, Locke, and Burke. As a commentary on the Constitution, again they have furnished the abstract principles to which the Supreme Court gas resorted for an analyses of government function. Thus they have guided the interpretation of the Constitution itself. In the famous Tenth Number, Madison argues that government must reconcile through a system of checks and balances the claims of conflicting interest groups into which all societies have been divided of necessity in civilized nations.


A means by which a minority of senators in the Congress seek to frustrate the will of the majority by literally talking a bill to death. Rule 22 of the Senate Rules provides for unlimited debate on a motion before it can be brought to a vote. Filibusters may be defeated by the use of cloture or round-the-clock sessions of the Senate.

The Frontier


The drawing of legislative district boundary lines with a view to obtaining partisan or factional advantage. The objective is to spread the support for one's own party over many districts and to concentrate the support for the other party into as few districts as possible.

Grand Jury

A body of from 12 to 23 members who hear evidence presented by the prosecuting attorney against accused of a serious crime. The Fifth Amendment requires that this be done for any capital or infamous crime, generally those for which death or imprisonment may result.

Great Depression

The extreme economic crisis which, with minor upswings, beset the United States from 1929 to 1940. It began with the Stock Market Crash of 1929 and led to an economic decline that witnessed no recovery until the spring of 1933. In every field of business endeavor huge losses were suffered, with the consequent rise of unemployment and social upheavals. Exports declined from $5,241,000,000 in 1929 to $1,611,000,000 in 1933. In that period imports fell from $4,399,000,000 to $1,323,000,000. Unemployment rose from 3,000,000 to an estimated 17,000,000. Wholesale prices declined from an average index of 95.3 to 65.9. Commercial failures increased from 24,000 in 1928 to 32,000 in 1932, and more than 5,000 banks failed in the first three years of the Great Depression. Factory payrolls fell below half the 1929 level, and total paid wages declined from $55,000,000,000 to $33,000,000,000 in 1931. Except for public construction, building virtually ceased, and the national income declined from $85,000,000,000 of the eve of the depression to $37,000,000,000 in 1932. Similar hardships befell the farmer, aggravating economic dislocations which had been his lot since the end of World War I. Despite minor and temporary upswings, full recovery was not achieved until the defense arms war programs after 1940.

Habeas corpus

An order directing an official who has a person in custody to bring the prisoner to court and to show cause for his detention. Congress is authorized to suspend the writ in cases of rebellion or invasion (Art. I, sec. 9). A number of states absolutely forbid its suspension. Habeas corpus is generally considered to be the most important guarantee of liberty in that it prevents arbitrary arrest and imprisonment. A prisoner must be released unless sufficient cause to detain him can be shown.


A formal accusation rendered by the lower house of a legislative body which commits the accused civil official for trial in the upper house. All civil officers of the United States are subject to impeachment, excluding military officers and congressmen. A simple majority vote of the Hose is sufficient to impeach. The House appoints managers who prosecute the case in a trial before the Senate. If a President is on trial, the Chief justice of the Unites States presides. A two-thirds vote in secret session is necessary for conviction. The only punishments that may be meted out are removal from office and disqualification from holding any office in the future. Once removed, however, the individual may be tried in a regular court of law if he has committed a criminal act. The President's pardoning power does not apply to impeachment convictions.


The system of expansionism involving either direct acquisition of, or control over, colonial areas, in the 19th and 20th centuries imperialism has had economic, military, religious, and prestige objectives. Basically the mother country has sought areas for the investment of surplus capital, sources of raw materials, and export markets. The demand for strategic navel and military bases as well as the religious zeal of missionaries have also contributed to imperialist expansion. Although first uses as a political term of attack on the Republican party during the MC KINLEY-BRAYN election campaign of 1900, the ward had often been applied to the agrarian expansionism which resulted in the acquisition of Louisiana, Florida, Oregon, Texas, the Mexican Cession, the Gadsden Purchase, and Alaska. The broad-scale overseas expansion after the Spanish-American War had its preliminaries in the attempts of SEWARD and GRANT to obtain the Danish West Indies and the Dominican Republic. Similar post-Civil War policies were evidenced with respect to CUBY in the Ostend Manifesto, Nicaragua, Samoa, and Hawaii. The Spanish-American War finally projected the United States into a major imperialist program. The open acquisition of Puerto Rico, Guam, and Philippines, and the Virgian Islands, was accompanied by indirect but firm control over Cuba, Haiti, Santo Domingo, Nicaragua, and other areas in Latin America and China. The economic basis of imperialism is revealed in the statistical data on American trade and financial investments abroad in the last quarter of the 19th century. In the 1890's two-thirds of all the land in Hawaii was owned by Americans and Europeans and three-quarters of all sugar lands owned by Americans. Whereas only 18,000,000 pounds of sugar were imported from Hawaii in 1875, 260,000,000 pounds were imported in 1890. At the outbreak of the Spanish-American War the annual trade with Cuba totaled $100,000,000 and American investments there were $50,000,000. By 1928 these investments had increased to $1,200,000,000. Total American investment abroad in 1898 were $500,000,000.

Indentured servants

Or bound laborers, were used principally in the Middle Colonies and the tobacco provinces during the colonial period. Voluntary servants (redemptioners or, free willers) were white immigrants who bound themselves to service for a period of years (usually two to seven) in return for passage to America. This group, which may have accounted for three-fourths of the total immigration before 1775, also included apprentices, minors who were provided training in specified trades. Involuntary workers comprised those in servitude for debt, or British convicts transported to the colonies (principally to Maryland, Virginia, or the West Indies). Some 50,000 such workers were sent from England before the Revolution. Unlike slavery, indentured servitude, whether voluntary or involuntary, bound the laborer only for a specified time.

Indian Territory

In American history it occasionally refers to all Indian lands in general. More specifically it is applied ad the official name of the Territory set aside from the Five Civilized Tribes, the Cherokee, Creek, Seminole, Choetam, and Chicksaw, by treaty between them and United States in 1834. Other tribes were later introduced. With the subsequent settlement of the western portions the eastern part was organized as Oklahoma Territory into which other tribes were settled. In 1889 these remaining unoccupied portions, were opened to settlement, and in 1893 the Dawes Commission was appointed to transfer Indian titles to lands in the Territory from tribes to individual allotments. Oklahoma was admitted to the Union as a state in 1907.

Indian treaties

They are a body of material unique in the literature of the world. Composed by no single author, they occupy a place in prose comparable in many ways to that of the popular ballad in poetry, especially in their provenance, structure, the metaphors and even the rites of their composition and style. Since Indian tribes acted as buffer states between French and British colonies and were invaluable allies in time of war, colonial governors always sought to make treaties of friendship with the Indians. A large number were printed, but the issue of each text was very limited. No single person in the history of Indian diplomatic relations was more important than CONRAD WEISER, who gained the allegiance of the Iroquois for the British in the French and Indian Wars. The subsequent history of Indian treaties, which offered a guarantee of tribal lands as long as grass shall grow and water run, is a sorry chapter in American history, best characterized by Helen Hunt Jackson in A Century of Dishonor (1881).

Jim Crow Laws

Refers to anti-Negro legislation many of the States of the Union. These laws discriminate against negroes with respect to attendance in the public schools, and the use of such public facilities as Railroads, restaurants, theaters, hotels, motion pictures houses, and public bathing places. Many of these states also prohibit marriage between Negro and white persons.

Judicial Review

The power of the courts to declare acts of the legislative and executive branches unconstitutional. All courts, both state and national, may exercise this authority, though final decision is usually made by the highest state or federal court.

Ku Klux Klan

Also know by its abbreviation, K.K.K. A terrorist organization of southerners, organized during the Reconstruction period after the Civil War for the purpose of preventing the enjoyment of the Civil Rights guaranteed to the ex-slaves in federal legislation and the Constitution. Typical terrorist practices consisted of Lynching, arson, and assaults upon negroes. Federal legislation provided protection in the early 1870's and the movement declined. It was revived after World War I as an anti-Catholic and anti-Semitic as well as anti-Negro organization. The movement was characterized by the donning of white cloaks and masks, secret meetings, the unusual titles of its officers (Grand Kleagle, etc.) and the burning of crosses.


A French phrase originating among the Physiocrats in the 18th century. Literally translated it means let do, and has been applied to the principle of the Free Enterprise System, having come to mean a hands off policy by government with respect to business operation. The doctrine presupposes the existence of natural economic laws of the market place which control the buying and selling of commodities, and assumes the existence of unfettered competition.

Lewis and Clark Expedition

The commissioning by President JEFFERSON of Captain MERIWEATHER LEWIS and WILLIAM CLARK to head a scientific exploring expedition to the northwest part of the Louisiana territory. The expedition started out in 1803 with a company of 35 men, ascended the Missouri River to its source, crossed the Rocky Mountains, and descended the Columbia River to the Pacific Coast in the summer of 1805. In 1806 they retraced virtually the same route, reaching St. Louis in September 1806. Their two and one half year study produced a considerable body of data concerning the topographical features of the country, its natural resources, the flora and fauna, and the habits of the native Indians tribes. One of the most important consequences of this journey was that it formed an important basis of the United States claim on the Oregon territory in the 1840's.

Little Big Horn Battle (June 25, 1876)

The Indians in Dakota territory bitterly resented the opening of the BLACK HILLS to settlers in violation of an earlier treaty. Owing also to official graft and negligence they were facing actual starvation for the coming winter, In the fall of 1875, therefore, they began to leave their reservations contrary to orders, to engage in their annual buffalo hunt. Here they were joined by lawless tribesmen from other reservations until the movement took on the proportions of a serious revolt. The situation was one that called for the utmost tact and discretion, for the Indians were ably led and the treatment they had received had stirred the bitterest resentment among them. Unfortunately, by some inexplicable blunder, an order, origination with the Indian Bureau, was sent to all reservation officials early in December, directing them to notify the Indians to return by Jan. 31, under penalty of being attacked by the United States Army. This belated order could not be carried out in the dead of winter even if the Indians had been inclined to obey it. Early in 1876 Gen. Sheridan, from his headquarters at Chicago, ordered a concentration of troops on the upper Yellowstone River, to capture or disperse the numerous bands of Dakotas who were hunting there. In June Gen. Terry, department commander, and Lt. Col. George A. Custer with his regiment from Fort ABRAHAM LINCOLN, marched overland to the Yellowstone, where they were met by the steamboat Far West with ammunition and supplies. At the mouth of Rosebud Creek (a tributary of the Yellowstone) Custer received his final orders from Terry: to locate and disperse the Indians. According to official records there is now no longer any doubt that Gen. Terry gave Custer absolutely free hand in dealing with the situation, relying upon his well-known experience in this kind of warfare. With twelve companies of the 7th Cavalry, Custer set out on his march and soon discovered the Indians camped on the south bank of the Little Big Horn River. He sent Maj. Reno with three companies of cavalry and all the Arikara scouts across the upper ford of this river to attack the southern end of the Indian camp. Capt. Benteen, with three companies, was sent to the left of Reno's line of march. Custer, himself, led five companies of the 7th Cavalry down the river to the lower ford for an attack on the upper part of the camp. One company was detailed to bring up the pack train. This plan of battle, thoroughly typical of Custer, was in the beginning completely successful. Suddenly faced by a vigorous double offensive, the Indians at first thought only of retreat. At this critical juncture, Reno became utterly confused and ordered his men to fall back across the river. Thereupon the whole force of the Indian attack was concentrated upon Cunter's command, compelling him to retreat back from the river to a position where his force was later annihilated. The soldiers under Reno rallied at the top of a high hill overlooking the river and here they were joined by Benteen's troops and two hours later by the company guarding the pack train. An official inquiry into Reno's conduct in the battle was make in 1879 and he was cleared of all responsibility for the disaster. Since that time, however, the sober judgement of military experts has tended to reverse this conclusion and to hold both Reno and Benteen gravely at fault. In Gen. Philip H. Sheridan's Memoirs it is stated: Reno's head failed him utterly at the critical moment. He abandoned in a panic the perfectly defensible and highly important position on the Little Big Horn River. As to Benteen, at the military inquiry he admitted he had been twice ordered by Custer to break out the ammunition and come on with his men. Later, at 2:30 p.m., when he had joined Reno, there was no attacking force of Indians in the vicinity and he had at his disposal two thirds of Custer's entire regiment as well as the easily accessible reserve ammunition. Gen. Nelson A. Miles in his Personal Recollections can find no reason for Benteen's failure to go to Custer's relief. He says, after an examination of the battlefield, that a gallop of fifteen minutes would have brought reinforcements to Custer. This expert opinion makes it hard to understand why, for more than an hour, while Custer's command was being overwhelmed, Reno and Benteen remained inactive.

Locke, John (1632-1704)

English philosopher and founder of British empiricism, ranked as the greatest single authority on political thought at the time the American nation was being founded. His Two Treatises of Government (1690) deeply influenced the thinking of the Revolutionary generation. He maintained what Jefferson assumed as basic in the Declaration of Independence: that life, liberty, and property are the inalienable rights of every individual, and that man's happiness and security are the ends for which government came into existence. His Letters of Toleration (1689-92) declare that revolution in some circumstances is not only right but obligatory. Lock's association with American institutions is even more direct, in that in 1669 he drew up a constitution for the Carolina Proprietors. That instrument (which sanctioned an aristocratic social order) never became operative as law, but its articles providing for religious toleration were in large part adopted. His principal work, Essay concerning Human Understanding (1690), developed the theme that sense perceptions are the basis of reason. This philosophical doctrine of sensationalism influenced the thought of Jonathan Edwards, and has continued as part of American intellectual history.

London Company

Was one of two interrelated trading companies that were granted a patent (1606) by the English crown for colonizing America, Under terms of the grant two Virginia companies were established. The London (or South Virginia) Company might plant itself anywhere from present South Carolina to New York, and the Plymouth Company (or North Virginia) might do so from Virginia to Maine, but neither planting was to be within 100 miles of the other. In 1607 the London Company founded Jamestown. In 1609 the Virginia Company chartered a group headed by Sir Thomas Smith, one of the most active promoters of his day, but misfortunes dogged the enterprise and in 1619 control passed to Sir Edwin Sandys. Two years later Sandys was replaced by Sir Francis Wyatt. The unprofitable venture forced the company into receivership, and in 1624 its charter was annulled.

Louisiana Purchase

The purchase from France in 1803 of the area between the Mississippi Valley and the Rocky Mountains and between Canada and the Gulf of Mexico. President JEFFERSON, upon learning in 1802 that this territory had been ceded to France by Spain, feared the prospect of having the control of the Mississippi River transferred to the powerful leader ship of Napoleon. At that time roughly three eighths of American commerce passed through the Mississippi Valley. His fears were realized in the autumn of 1802 when the Spanish Intendant closed the mouth of the Mississippi at Mew Orleans and withdrew the right of deposit secured by the Pinckney Treaty of 1795. Jefferson obtained a $2,000,000 appropriation from Congress for the purpose of buying New Orleans and West Florida from France, sending JAMES MONROE to Paris to aid ROBERT LIVINGSTON in the negotiation. At this point Napoleon decided to sell the entire territory, needing money for his wars against England, and the ultimate price agreed upon was $15,000,000. The purchased doubled the area of the United States and brought within it those lands that ultimately were to produce the immense wealth of the mineral resources the agricultural produce, the hydro-electric power, and the meat products. Despite the constitutional objections to the President's purchase, it was sanctioned by popular support and justified by Jefferson on the grounds of military need.


Also known as Tories. Refers to British colonists of America who supported the mother country during American Revolution. Such support took the form of open military aid to the British armies, financial and material assistance to Great Britain, and espionage on its behalf. JOHN ADAMS believed that one-third of the colonists were loyalists and it has been estimated that about 30,000 loyalists served in the British army during the Revolutionary War, representing a number approximately equal to the greatest number of troops WASHINGTON had under his command at any one time. The treatment of captured loyalists by the patriot troops were extremely harsh. Basically the loyalists consisted of large landed proprietors, royalists, officials, professionals, and conservatives form all classes. They were strongest in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

Majority Floor Leader

The chief spokesman and strategist of the majority party who directs the party's forces in legislative battles. In the Senate, he must work closely with the minority leader because much business is transacted through unanimous consent.

Manifest Destiny

The term Manifest Destiny was coined by the American journalist John L. O'Sullivan in 1839.

The doctrine held in the 1830's and 40's that it was the clear and inevitable lot of the United States to absorb all of North America. Under the southern leadership of the Democratic party it became a purely sectional slogan aimed at the acquisition of additional lands suitable for slavery. The agrarian expansionism thus exhibited ultimately ended in the acquisition of Texas, Oregon, California, and the Mexican Cession.

Mayflower Compact

Drafted on the day (21 November 1620) that the Pilgrims anchored off Cape Cod, was an agreement among the 41 male adults binding them together in a civil body politic to frame laws and to constitute offices for the general good of the proposed colony. The anonymous journal of the voyage, Mourt's Relation (1622), is the only record of this document, which, though it lacked legal status, had the strength of Common consent.

Melting pot

The various ethnic groups do not retain their cultural heritage but amalgamate into one new nation. The term first appeared in an essay by Jean de Crèvecoer entitled Letters from an American farmer in 1782.


An economic theory of the 16th — 18th century whose principal doctrine was the belief that the wealth of nations was based on the possession of gold. In order to obtain gold stocks European governments attempted to secure favorable trade balances by imposing quotas on imports, levying tariffs, and paying export subsidies. They also chartered joint stock companies upon whom were conferred monopoly rights in the discovery, settlement, and economic exploitation of colonies. Although restricting free trade and competition, the mercantile theory encouraged the colonial exploration of that period, and thus contributed to the settlement of the western hemisphere.

Miranga Warnings

Adequate protective devices against self-incrimination and the right to counsel.

  1. You have the right to remain silent.
  2. Anything you say can and will be used against in a court of law.
  3. You have the right to have an attorney present before any questioning.
  4. If you cannot afford an attorney, one will be appointed to represent you before any questioning.
  5. Do you understand there rights?

On the basis of his confession, Ernesto Miranda, an indigent, poorly educated twenty-three-year-old, had been convicted 1966 in Arizona of kidnapping and rape. On appeal, the case reached the Supreme Court. Although his two hours of questioning had been comparatively mild, Miranda had not been advised of his right to consult with an attorney, or to have a lawyer present, before answering any questions. Because the confession was obtained under circumstances the High Court found constitutionally unacceptable, Miranda's conviction was reversed.

The Fifth Amendment provides that no person shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself. The pre-Miranda view was that this provision applied only to judicial or other formal proceedings. But in Miranda, a 5-4 majority led by Chief Justice Earl Warren held that the self-incrimination clause also applied to the informal compulsion exerted by the police during their interrogations after a suspect has been arrested.

Missouri Compromise

Act of Congress in 1820 submitted and sponsored by HENRY CLAY as the first after his three great compromises. The legislation arouse out of the application of the territory of Missouri for Admission to the Union as a slave state. Such admission would have weighted the Senate in favor of the slave states and was therefore opposed by the North. This moment of sectional hatred during the Era of Good Feeling was compromised by Clay with the admission of Missouri as a slave state, the admission of Maine (formed out of the territory of Massachusetts with the latter's and Congress' consent) as a free state, and an agreement that all territory north of the line 36 degree 30 minutes within the Louisiana Purchase would thenceforth be admitted as free states and all territory south after that line as slave states.


Name applied by Theodore Roosevelt in 1906 to a group of writers and newspaper men who in their work attacked the political, economic, and social evils within the country. These muckrakers were part of the movement of reform from 1890 to the end of World War I commonly known as the Progressive Era. Among the better known writers were IDA FARBELL, UPTON SINCLAIR, RAY STANNARD BAKER, Henry Demarest Lloyd, and Frank Norris. Their influence was important enough to stimulate the passage by Congress of many laws. The most significant of these were the Pure Food and Drugs Act, 1906, the Meat Inspection Act, 1906, and the Federal Reserve Act, 1914.

Natural Right

Those right believed to be intrinsic to the individual before the creation of the state. They were developed in the political philosophy of John Milton, John Locke, and Jean Jacques Rousseau, and modified in America by JEFFERSON, SAMUEL ADAMS, and PAINE. In the early Revolutionary period these rights were conceived of as part of the heritage of British constitutionalism, although Paine considered natural rights as independent of political constitutions. As developed in America, natural rights included Popular Sovereignty, the right of revolution against tyranny, democracy, liberty, the pursuit of happiness, and property rights. Varying emphases of the importance of natural right have played significant roles in American history. HAMILTON, for example, emphasized property rights. Jefferson and Paine emphasized personal and civil rights. In the 19th century CALHOUN repudiated the entire doctrine of natural rights as unsound.

New Canaan

In the Bible Canaan was the land God promised to the Israelites. God ordered Moses to lead the people from captivity in Egypt to Canaan — a land of mild and honey. America sees itself in this tradition. The idea of America as the New Canaan, the land of mild and honey, is closely linked to the idea of Manifest Destiny.

New Deal

The name applied to the program of President F. D. ROOSEVELT following his inauguration in 1933. This program was based on the slogan Relief, Recovery, Reform. Confronted with the serious problems of the Depression, the New Deal sought and enacted legislation in the fields of public welfare, work relief, agriculture, public utilities, finance, labor, industry, securities regulation, transportation, and housing. Basically, the New Deal program was supported by the labor, farm and small business elements of the population but was opposed by a large segment of Big Business. Familiar characteristics of the New Deal were the Althabet Agencies and the Brain Trust. The phrase was first publicly used by President Roosevelt on July 2, 1932 in his speech accepting the Presidential nomination. This address declared, I pledge you … I pledge myself … to a new deal for the American people. This is more than a political campaign; it is a call to arms.

New Jersey Plan

A plan submitted by William Patterson of New Jersey to the Constitutional Convention of 1787 representing the views of the small states and states' rights advocates. It was expressly designed as a counterproposal to the strongly nationalistic Virginia Plan. The essence of the New Jersey Plan was a single-house Congress with each state having an equal vote. Moreover, the Plan looked toward a moderate modification of the Articles of Confederation rather than the drafting of a new document.

Northwest Ordinance

Also known as the Ordinance of 1787. Enacted by the Congress of the Articles of Confederation in 1787. The law set the precedent for admitting new states into the Union which has since been followed by the government of the United States. Specifically, it provided that a minimum of three and a maximum of five status should be created out of the Northwest Territory, to be admitted to the union upon petition of these territories. After having attained a population of 60,000. In further provided for the Abolition of Slavery in these territories and guarantees of civil liberties, and set aside land areas for public education. The law was the work of THOMAS JEFFERSON.

Open Primary

A direct voting system which permits the voter to choose the party primary in which he wishes to vote without disclosing his party affiliation or allegiance, if any. In an open primary, the voter makes his choice in the privacy of the voting booth. However, he is still limited to casting votes for candidates of only one party. Today 11 states use the open primary system.

(Party) Platform

A statement of principles and objectives espoused by a party or a candidate which is used during a campaign to win support form voters. Platforms are, typically, written at national, state, and county party conventions by platform committees and adopted by the conventions.


Those persons devoted to the cause of independence during the Revolution. Formally called Whigs, they opposed the Loyalists. Generally the consisted of members of the middle class and lower class although many representatives of wealth were recruited to they course.


In American history, were the small band of humble Puritans of East Anglia who sought to prevent interference with their religious meetings by removing (1609) to Leyden, where they formed an English Congregational Church . Ten years later, having decided to begin anew in a world free from corrupting influences, they procured through Sir EDWIN SANDYS a grant from the Virginia Company, and a group of London merchants financed their venture. In September 1620, with MYLES STANDISH as their military leader, 102 passengers embarked from Plymouth on the Mayflower. After a rough crossing (it was the worst season to sail) on it November they entered Provincetown harbor at the tip of Cape Cod, where on the same day they drew up the famous Mayflower Compact. Soon thereafter they elected JOHN CARVER as governor. This part of New England lay outside the Virginia jurisdiction, but they deliberately abandoned their patent, determined to establish themselves somewhere on Massachusetts Bay. For several weeks small parties explored the coast, and on 21 December they selected Plymouth harbor, where the Mayflower anchored. The winter was mild, but for the Pilgrims (44 of whose number perished before April) the first few months were grim, almost desperate. Those who survived did so because in the ensuing months friendly Indians taught these inexperienced yeomen and city workers how to catch fish and plant corn. After the death of Carver (April 1621) the group chose WILLIAM BRADFORD as governor and began their new life under the ministry of elder WILLIAM BREWSTER. Some time in November of that year the Pilgrims celebrated the first Thanksgiving (three days of feast and entertainment for themselves and the neighborly Indians) to mark the arrival of the Fortune, which brought provisions augmenting their own harvest, their venison, and the great store of wild Turkies. The contingent of pilgrims that came on the Fortune also brought a charter (dated it June 1621) that gave legality to the Plymouth Colony, whose political interests thenceforth were placed in the care of its agent, EDWARD WINSLOW. Lean years followed, and for several seasons only faith in their venture and stout-hearted determination kept the colonists one step ahead of famine. The total population a decade after the landing was but 300. Yet their daring idealism, symbolized in Plymouth Rock, has given the Pilgrim Fathers stature far beyond their narrow limits, as an image of enduring fortitude.

Plantation System

The name applied to the division of a colony in the 17th century into smaller units under private ownership. This was done because of the impractical and uneconomical operation of an entire chartered colony. Originating in Virginia, the system had grown as a unit of well-developed independent farms and private plantations when it was transferred to the crown in 1624. The production of staple crops such as tobacco, rice, sugar, naval stores, and cotton was adaptable to the plantation system, and early showed the need for large labor masses. The result was the importation of slaves which by the middle of the 17th century had developed into a flourishing industry. Many plantations were over 1,000 acres in area and employed 100 or more slaves under the direction of a central authority, making it the dominant force on Southern economic life in the era prior to the Civil War. The plantation was a self-supporting community with orchards and fields, slave quarters, barns, tools, work houses, livestock, and domiciles. Determined largely by climate, soil, and topography the plantation system developed in the southern colonies and states, deriving the name the Black Belt from the wide-spread use of slave labor. Because of their economic dominance, the planters wielded great political and social authority. The plantation system was destroyed by the Civil War and the Reconstruction difficulties that followed.

President pro Tempore

The temporary presiding officer of the Senate. He is elected by the Senate following his nomination by the majority party caucus. He is eligible for the presidency of the United States following the death or disability of the President, Vice President, and Speaker of the House.

Presidential Primaries

The election of delegates to a major party's national convention. About one third of the states hold some form of presidential primary in the weeks or months preceding the conventions; delegates are selected in the others by political party conventions or committees. Delegates selected in the primaries may or may not be pledged to vote for a presidential aspirant. In a few states, delegates are selected by the party organization but are bound to support the candidate designated by the voters in a so-called popularity contest.

Progressive Era

Also known as the Ate of Reform. The period from 1890 to World War I during which a concerted attempt was made to establish basic reforms in political, economical, and social affairs. The failure to realize the potential of American democracy in the preceding century was clearly revealed by the evils and abuses of industrialism by the end of the 19th century. Such evils as child and women labor, slums, sweat shops, concentration of economic power, lobbying, maldistribution of wealth, limited suffrage, city political machines and bosses, bribery and corruption of political officials, labor strife, business monopolies, anti-Negro prejudice and discrimination, inequitable tax laws, agrarian discontent, and wasteful consumption of the nation's resources aroused widespread national protest. This protest took the form of the writings of the muckrakers, the development of critical scholarship in the nation's universities, and the passage of federal, state, and local reform legislation. The reforms included the 16th and 17th Amendmensts, the Pure Good and Drugs Act, the Meat Inspection Act, the Federal Reserve Act, the Sherman Anti-Trust Act, the Clayton Anti-Trust Act, the Federal Trade Commission Act, the Adamson Act, the La Follette Seaman's Act, the Federal Farm Loan Act, and a vast body of state and municipal laws providing for woman suffrage, the initiative, the referendum, the recall, the direct primary, the short ballot, proportional representation, and housing, educational, labor, social security, and welfare reforms. Among the outstanding leaders of the Progressive Era were WOODROW WILSON, THEODORE ROOSEVELT, JOHN ALTGELD, EUGENE V. DEBS, JOHN DEWEY, WILLIAM JAMES, ROBERT M. LA FOLLETTE, GEORGE NORRIS, and the muckrakers.


Verbot von Einfuhr, Herstellung und Verkauf alkoholischer Getränke im Zeitraum von 1919 bis 1933 durch den 18., aufgehoben durch den 21. Verfassungszusatz.


Began as an effort within the Anglican Church during the early reign of Elizabeth I to purify traditional usages. The dispute, which had begun merely over unscriptural images and vestments, by the 1570's erupted into a vigorous and often rancorous argument against the authority of the bishops to determine matters of church government. Both Elizabeth I and her successor, James I, believed that uniformity was essential to the strength of the state, and they supported an episcopacy in which the monarch, by appointing bishops, exercised authority over the Church as well. The issue therefore was political, and in 1604, the year after James came to the English throne, a political party that had sought relatively minor concessions gained strength when James summarily rejected their pleas. The extremists, or separatists, who wished an independent church autonomy, fled to Holland (1608-1609) and eleven years later were the core of the group of Pilgrims who came to America and inaugurated the Congregational system of church government. The moderates hoped for reforms, but the gulf became unbridgeable when William Laud, first as Bishop of London (1628), then as Archbishop of Canterbury (1633), not only made no concessions but decreed church rules that virtually closed appointments to Puritans in both church and university positions.

By 1630 the great Puritan migration to Massachusetts Bay had begun. The Puritans of the Bay Colony were not Separatists, but moderate nonconformists, who regarded the established Church of England as the true church. But their Congregationalist principles gave autonomy to the churches and therefore were especially adaptable to frontier conditions. In the early years, citizenship, regardless of social position, depended upon church membership, a franchise requirement that the New England settlers regarded as basic. Since the Church never officially controlled the State, Massachusetts was not a theocracy, but rather a Bible Commonwealth in which the magistrates sought counsel of the ministers. The death of such first-generation Visible Saints as JOHN COTTON, THOMAS HOOKER, and THOMAS SHEPARD weakened the authoritarian hold of Puritanism because church membership began to decline. To check that trend in 1662 the churches adopted the Half-Way Covenant, which extended partial members111p without requiring a confession of religious experience. The founding in Boston of the Brattle Street Church (1699), which extended full membership to all who wished to join, was the beginning of a liberal Congregational movement that spelled the doom of Puritanism as the term had been used until then, and in effect ushered out the New England Way. There were stultifying elements in Puritanism; Puritans banned the theater, religious music, sensuous poetry, and the observance of Christmas (then associated with pagan revelry). One factor that contributed to the decline of the Puritan oligarchy was the support it gave to the Salem Witchcraft Delusion of 1692, when the clergy disastrously lost their bout with rationalism. On the other hand, the Massachusetts general laws and liberties (1648) was a carefully planned legislative action that led the world in many forms of freedom and protection for the individual. Puritan divorce laws were more liberal than those in England. By nourishing the classics New Englanders preserved far more of the humanist tradition than did any other colonists prior to 1700. Although the term puritan became synonymous with bigot in the 19th and early 20th centuries, Puritans were in fact a closely knit group striving to transmit the inheritance of great civilizations, and as a catalytic. force they inspired moral and intellectual traits that have persisted distinctively in American culture to the present day.


The minimum number of members of a legislative chamber who must be present in order to transact business.


Der Begriff bezeichnet das angebotsorientierte wirtschafts- und steuerpolitische Programm der Reagan-Administration (1981-1989), das durch massive Steuersenkungen und durch den Abbau investitionshemmender Vorschriften neues Wachstum zu schaffen versprach. Im einzelnen beinhaltete das Programm der Reaganomics, das der Präsident am 18. Februar 1981 dem Kongress vorstellte, folgende Punkte: 1. die Steuersenkung für Unternehmen und Private zur Verstärkung von Leistungsanreizen; 2. die Deregulierung in vielen Wirtschaftsbereichen; 3. die Konsolidierung der öffentlichen Haushalte durch Einschränkung der Staatsausgaben insbesondere im Bereich der staatlichen Wohlfahrtsprogramme; 4. die Senkung der Inflationsrate und 5. die Erhöhung der Rüstungsausgaben.


Refers to the attempts after the Civil War to bring back into the Union those states which had seceded. Also applies to the efforts at physical, financial, and political rehabilitation of these states. Under this program various plans were advanced by President LINCOLN, President JOHNSON, moderate congressional Republicans, and the radical republicans. It is generally considered that the reconstruction movement was terminated by President HAYES in 1877. The period of Reconstruction is often called the Tragic Era because of the bitter sectional hatred between the North and the South, the Negro-White clashes in the South, and the political animosity between the Democratic and Republican parties.


The action of a legislative body in redrawing legislative electoral district lines following a new population census. After each decennial federal census, congressional seats are reapportioned among the 50 states. In each state that gains or loses seats, the state legislature usually draws up new districts. Additionally, state legislatures are required by most state constitutions to redraw district boundary lines for electing state representatives and senators to the legislatures following each federal census.

Salad bowl

The various ethnicities living in the United States adding their own traditions, cultural values, etc. to the American people; the various heritages do not merge into one, but stay distinct (unity in diversity).

(Segregation) Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka (May 1954)

Was a case resulting in a historic decision by the U.S. Supreme Court, which unanimously ruled that segregation of white and Negro children in public schools, solely on the ground of race and color, denied to Negro pupils the equal protection guaranteed by the 14th Amendment. It thus substantially altered the opinion handed down by Justice Field in 1885 that the terms of the Amendment had been met if they affected alike all persons similarly situated, a ruling that in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) had been interpreted to mean separate but equal accommodations. In May 1955 the Court issued another ruling, decreeing that state and local laws must honor the principle, and instructed Federal courts to require a start toward desegregation with all deliberate speed. It soon extended the ruling to apply to public gathering places, common carriers, and to state-supported colleges and universities. Although white resistance was strong and statewide in some areas with a large Negro population, the great violence at first predicted did not come to pass. But by 1964 Negro organizations complained of too much tokerism in the progress towards desegregation.

Separation of powers

A major principle of American government whereby power is distributed among three branches of government — the legislative, the executive, and the judicial. The officials of each branch are selected by different procedures and are independent of each other. The separation is not complete in that each branch participates in the functions of the other through a system of checks and balances. However, the separation serves to ensure that the same person or group will not make the law, enforce the law, and interpret and apply the law. The separation of lawmaking, law enforcement, and law interpretation is designed to prevent tyranny. It also serves to make the three branches responsive to different pressures. At the same time, the system frequently results in lack of unity between the legislative and executive branches, particularly when they are controlled by different parties. This fragmentation of power is a major factor in the operation of the American governmental system. The judiciary plays the critical role in maintaining the branches within their assigned powers.

Speaker of the house

The presiding officer in the House of Representatives and in the lower chamber of state legislatures. His election by the House is a formality which follows his selection by the majority party caucus. As a member of the Hose, the Speaker may engage in debate and vote on measures. As presiding officer, he recognizes members wishing to speak, interprets and applies the rules, and decides questions of order. The role and powers of speakers in the various state legislatures are analogous to those of the Speaker in the House of Representatives, with the additional power to appoint members of standing committees as well.

Spoils system

The award of government jobs to political supporters and friends. The term derives form the expression, to the victor belongs the spoils. The spoils system is generally associated with President Andrew Jackson.

Statue of Liberty

Texan Independence, War for

The revolt of Texan against the Mexican government in 1835. Between 1821 and 1835, 25,000 Texans mostly from the United States, had migrated to the province under the stimulus of a liberal Mexican land policy. Texas lure of free land suitable for cotton culture attracted most of them from the southern slave states. A change in government in 1829 brought about a restriction of American immigration and a change in land policy. Sporadic armed conflicts after 1832 altered the previous conditions of peace in Texas. On October 2, 1835 the first pitched battle broke out. By December the Mexican towns of Gonzales, Goliad, and San Antonio had fallen to the Texans. In March, 1836 the Mexican commander, Santa Anna, defeated the Texans at the Alamo. Another Texan force of 400 men was captured near Goliad. By April a reorganized Texan army under General SAM HOUSTON decisively defeated Santa Anna, who was captured. A convention declared Texan to be independent on March 2, 1836.

Three-Fifth Compromise

An agreement reached at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 to count only three fifths of the slave population in determining representation in the House of Representatives and in apportioning direct taxes. This provision of the Constitution (Art. I, sec. 2) is no longer pertinent.

(Trail of Tears) Five civilized tribes

Is the term first officially applied in 1876 to those Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole Indian groups forcibly transferred from Georgia and the Gulf states to Indian Territory (Oklahoma) during the 1830's. By 1838 the Trail of Tears was closed. The group adopted white laws and institutions and intermarried with whites and Negroes. today it numbers some 65,000 persons.

TVA (Tennessee Valley Authority)

Im Mai 1933 durch den Kongreß geschaffene Behörden mit dem Auftrag, Staudämme und Kraftwerke zur industriellen Entwicklung der Region des Tennesseetals (das fast ganz Tennessee und Teile von 6 Anrainerstaaten umfaßt) zu errichten. Die TVA produzierte und verkaufte Elektrizität, vermiderte die Überschwemmungsgefahr und hob merklich den Lebensstandard der Region. Schon Jahre zuvor in der Planung, war sie einer der Vorzeigeprojekte des New Deal.

Underground Railroad

The name applied to the system by which escaped slaves were aided in their flight to the North and Canada. Abolitionists in the North and South established stations at which slaves would be given sanctuary. This system of providing food, shelter, and financial aid to runaway Negroes was especially strong in New York. Pennsylvania and along the northern engaged in this labor even though it violated the Fugitive Slave Laws.

Virginia Plan

A plan, submitted by Edmund Randolph of Virginia to the Constitutional Convention of 1787, which called for scrapping the Articles of Confederation and establishing a new and strong national government. It provided for a two-house legislature based on state population or wealth, a national executive, and a judiciary. The Congress would have had power to disallow state legislation and was to be invested with broad power over matters of national concern.


A legislative power vested in a chief executive enabling him to return an unsigned bill to the legislative body with reasons for his objections. The Constitution provides that every bill which passes the House and the Senate must be sent tot the President for his signature before it becomes law. When the President receives a bill, he may (1) sign it, and it thereupon becomes law; (2) not sign it, and it then becomes law after ten congressional working days; (3) veto it, and send it back to the house of its origin; or (4) not sign it, and if the Congress adjourns within ten days the bill is killed (pocket veto). Congress may amend the bill according to the President's demands and then repass it, or it may reject the President's objection and override the veto by repassing the bill with a two-thirds roll call veto in each house.

Vice President

The constitutional officer assigned to preside over the Senate and to assume the office of President in case of the death, resignation, removal, or disability of the President. The Vice President is elected on the same ballot with the President and, in case no candidate receives a majority of the electoral vote, the Senate chooses from the two candidates with the highest number of electoral votes. Although President of the Senate, the Vice President is not considered to be a member, participating only informally, if at all, in its deliberations, and voting only when a tie occurs. He is regarded as a legislative officer and only potentially as an executive officer.


An assistant floor leader who aids the majority or minority leaders of each party in each house of Congress. Whips are selected in party caucuses, usually on the recommendation of the floor leaders. Each whip in the House appoints several assistants to aid him, whereas the Senate whips are aided by the secretaries to their respective party policy committees. The duties of the whips include (1) canvassing fellow party members so as to inform party leaders of the number of votes which can be counted on; (2) taking action to bring full voting power of their party to bear on key issues; (3) acting for the floor leaders when they are absent form the chamber.

Wounded Knee (Dec. 29, 1890)

Last important clash of Indians with United States troops, climaxed the Ghost Dance. Big Foot's band of Sioux, which fled into the Badlands after the killing of Sitting Bull, Dec. 15, 1890, was captured by the 7th Cavalry at Wounded Knee Creek, S. Dak., December 28. Col. J. W. Forsyth, the following day, ordered the Indians disarmed. When a few resisted, general firing began in which more than 200 Indian men, women and children were slaughtered, including Big Foot. The white losses were 29 dead and 33 wounded. Many wounded Indians, left on the field, froze to death in a blizzard the next night.