Like this study set? Create a free account to save it.

Sign up for an account

Already have a Quizlet account? .

Create an account

King Philip's War

This was the 1675-6 conflict between New England colonists and Native American Groups allied under Wampanoag chief Metacom. This war was the costliest in New England history and it largely crushed the Indian capacity for resistance

joint stock company

These companies, such as the Virginia Company, provided the financial means for English colonizing ventures in the New World in the early 1600s.


This was the first successful English colony in the Americas--settled in 1607. However, it faced great hardships due to disease and interference from surrounding Indian tribes.

John Smith

English captain who took control of Jamestown in 1608, famously declaring that "he who shall not work shall not eat". Instrumental in relations between the Powhatan confederacy and the English due to his relationship with Powhatan's daughter Pocahontas. His work ethic and willingness to trade with the Indians saved the settlement.

House of Burgesses

The first elected legislative assembly in the New World, formed in Virginia in 1619


English Separatists who drafted the Mayflower Compact and established Plymouth Plantation in 1620. They celebrated their survival with a Thanksgiving feast in 1621 with local Wampanoag Indians.


The first permanent English settlement in New England, established by a group of Puritan separatists known as the Pilgrims, who sailed on the Mayflower and landed near present day Cape Cod.

Mayflower Compact

A document written in 1620 by the Pilgrims establishing themselves as a "civil body politic" and setting guidelines for self-government.


An English-speaking Indian who helped the Pilgrims at Plymouth Plantation by showing them where to fish and how to cultivate corn.

Massachusetts Bay Company

This organization of influential Puritan investors in England sponsored and organized a large expedition to North America in 1629 for the express purpose of establishing an independent Puritan community, free of what they saw as the corrupting influences of the Church of England. Centered in Boston, this company administered the ___ ___ Colony during the region's early settlement.


English religious group that sought to purify the Church of England; founded the Massachusetts Bay Colony under John Winthrop in 1630.

Great Migration

during the 1630s, religious persecution and economic hard times in England drove more than 15,000 Puritans to journey to Massachusetts.

John Winthrop

He was the first governor of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. His "Model of Christian Charity" encouraged fellow Puritans to create a "city upon a hill."

Roger Williams

He was banished from the Massachusetts Bay Colony for challenging Puritan ideas. He later established Rhode Island and helped it to foster religious toleration and separation of church and state.

Anne Hutchinson

She was a Massachusetts Bay Puritan who was banished for criticizing the colony's ministers and magistrates, and for her heresy of antinomianism. She then moved to the colony of Portsmouth in Rhode Island.

Fundamental Orders of Connecticut

This was the first written constitution in the American colonies. It was prepared as the covenant for the new Puritan community in ___, established in the 1630s. This document described a system of government for the new community.

Toleration Act

Act passed in 1649 to allow a degree of religious freedom in Maryland

William Penn

He was the Quaker proprietor of a colony that became a refuge for persecuted Quakers. He treated Indians fairly, and his well-advertised colony became the most economically successful in English North America.


Religious group that settled in Pennsylvania and led by William Penn—believed in equality, tolerance, and religious freedom

Columbian Exchange

The exchange of plants, animals, foods, human populations, communicable diseases, and ideas between the Eastern and Western hemispheres after Columbus's voyage in 1492.

The Chesapeake

The region of Virginia and Maryland. In contrast to New England, this region was distinguished by indentured servants, cash crops, and African slavery.

Headright System

A land policy created in Virginia and Maryland designed to encourage settlement by providing 50 acres of land to anyone who settled in the colony

Indentured Servants

Laborers who agreed to work for a contracted period of time, usually seven years, in exchange for passage to America.

cash crops

Crops, such as tobacco and cotton, raised in large quantities in order to be sold for profit.

Bacon's Rebellion

This 1676 uprising in in the Virginia Colony was the first rebellion in the American colonies in which discontented frontiersmen violently protested against the governor of Virginia, William Berkeley, accusing him of levying unfair taxes, of appointing friends to high positions, and of failing to protect outlying farmers from Indian attack. After months of conflict, Jamestown was burned to the ground.


These were vigilante groups active in the 1760s and 1770s in the western parts of North and South Carolina. They violently protested high taxes and insufficient representation in the colonial legislature.

Halfway Covenant

This Puritan doctrine responded to the declining religious fervor of second and third generation Puritans by providing partial church membership for the children and grandchildren of church members. Puritan preachers hoped that this plan would maintain some of the church's influence in society.

Dominion of New England

In the 1680s, King James II reorganized the American colonies to bring greater imperial supervision of the New England colonies and New York. James II planned to combine eight northern colonies into a single large province, to be governed by a royal appointee (Sir Edmund Andros) with an appointed council but no elective assembly.

Edmund Andros

He was the royal governor of the Dominion of New England. Colonists resented his enforcement of the Navigation Acts and the attempt to abolish the colonial assembly.

Salem Witch Trials

This hysteria was precipitated when a nine-year-old girl attempted to divine the future in the Massachusetts Bay Colony. When she and other girls subsequently began acting in peculiar ways, they were diagnosed as being under Satan's influence. The governor set up a Court of Oyer and Terminer (meaning "to hear and to determine") to examine the cases. Twenty-seven individuals were tried for witchcraft in1692; the 19 who refused to confess were executed.

triangular trade

Trade from North America (sugar, tobacco, cotton) to Europe (rum, textiles, manufactured goods) to Africa (slaves).

Ben Franklin

He was a writer, scientist, delegate to the Continental Congress, signer of the Declaration of Independence, and delegate to the Constitutional Convention.

town meeting

This democratic form of local government in colonial New England allowed adult males to select a representative to the assembly and decide issues related to land, taxes, and the minister's salary.

Zenger Trial

This 1735 trial of a New York newspaper editor resulted in a not guilty verdict, since his articles were based on fact. This acquittal was the first important victory for freedom of the press in the colonies and set an important precedent for the libel cases of the future.

Paxton Boys

This uprising was a revolt by western Pennsylvania farmers in 1763. It was triggered by eastern indifference to Indian attacks on the frontier and by the western district's underrepresentation in the Pennsylvania assembly.


This economic theory advocated a favorable balance of trade to guarantee the economic self-sufficiency of the British empire and the growth of its wealth and power. Supporters of this theory advocated possession of colonies as places where the mother country could acquire raw materials not available at home.

Navigation Acts

These laws were passed by Parliament to implement mercantilistic assumptions about trade. They were intended to regulate the flow of goods in imperial commerce to the greater benefit of the mother county. One of these laws, for example, called for imperial trade to be conducted using English or colonial ships with mainly English crews. Another law created vice-admiralty courts in the colonies.

enumerated articles

These were specific goods, including sugar, cotton, and tobacco, that, under the Navigation Act of 1660, colonists could ship only to British ports.

salutary neglect

British colonial policy that relaxed supervision of internal colonial affairs by royal bureacrats contributed significantly to the rise of American self government

Great Awakening

This term describes the widespread evangelical revival movement of the 1740s and 1750s. Sparked by the tour of the English evangelical minister George Whitefield, revival divided congregations and weakened the authority of established churches in the colonies.

George Whitfield

He was an Anglican minister with great oratorical skills. His emotion-charged sermons were a centerpiece of the Great Awakening in the American colonies in the 1740s.

New Lights

This term applies to those who embraced the revivals that spread through the colonies during the Great Awakening as opposd who supported more traditional services and congregations.

Jonathan Edwards

This theologian was an American revivalist of the Great Awakening. He was both deeply pious and passionately devoted to intellectual pursuits. His most popular sermon titled, "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God," appealed to thousands of re-awakened Christians.


This was an intellectual movement of the eighteenth century that celebrated human reasoning powers. Prominent thinkers of this time emphasized the role of human reason in understanding the world and directing its events. Their ideas placed less emphasis on God's role in ordering worldly affairs. This rationalism had a major impact on American political thought.

Iroquois Confederacy

This group was the dominant Native American military power in North America during the 18th century. The five separate nations composing this group were the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca. Their peaceful coexistence allowed the their to benefit economically from trade with both the English and the French. They worked with colonial leaders like Ben Franklin in the mid-18th century exchanging political and social ideas. But the American Revolution itself was a catastrophe for this group. The dispute separated the Mohawks, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas, who sided with the British, from the Oneidas and Tuscaroras who fought with the patriots.

French and Indian War

This conflict had its focal point in North America and pitted the French and their Native American allies against the English and their Native American allies. Althought it lasted from 1754-1763, the event was known in Europe as the Seven Years' War. This struggle drove the French from North America.

George Washington

His first military action occurred on the frontier in 1754. During a campaign to dislodge French and Indian troops in the Ohio Valley, his troops were overwhelmed at Fort Necessity by a larger and better positioned French and Indian force. Released by the French, he later becme an aide to British General Edward Braddock. By 1758, he participated in the expedition that prompted French evacuation of Fort Duquesne, and British establishment of Pittsburgh.

Treaty of Paris (1763)

This treaty ended the French and Indian War (Great War for the Empire) in 1763. France abandoned nearly all its territorial claims in North America to Great Britain.

Pontiac's Rebellion

This indian uprising began in 1763 when a grand council of Potawatomis, Hurons Ottawas was called to rise up against the British and American colonials and drive them back across the mountains. The British sent 15 regiments to restore order, but the war had been costly for the white settlements that were affected: an estimated 2,000 civilians and some 400 soldiers died during the conflict. To prevent future conflict with the indians, the British restricted American settlement west of the Appalachian mountains.

Proclamation of 1763

In an effort to avoid any future conflict with the Native Americans after the French and Indian War, the British issued this proclamation--that no English colonists shall be allowed to settle west of the Appalachian Mountains. Passed in the wake of Pontiac's Rebellion, the edict forbade private citizens and colonial governments alike to buy land from or make any agreements with natives; the empire would conduct all official relations. Theoretically the act protected colonists from Indian rampages, the measure was also intended to shield Native Americans from increasingly frequent attacks by white settlers. The majority of colonists despised the proclamation because it restricted their freedom to settle on western lands. It became one in a long list of colonial grievances against the British.

Sugar Act

This 1764 Act initiated prime minister George Grenville's plan to place tariffs on some colonial imports as a means of raising revenue needed to finance England's expanded North American empire. It also called for more strict enforcement of the Navigation Acts. The end of "salutary neglect" and the effort to curb smuggling led to many of the early colonial protests against British interference in colonial affairs.

James Otis

From 1761 to 1769, he was a political leader of Massachusetts and the chief publicist of the American cause. His pamphlets explaining the patriot perspective on the relationship between the American colonies and England laid the broad theoretical groundwork for American independence. In 1764 he wrote that everyone should be "free from all taxes but what he consents to in person, or by his representative."

Virtual Representation

This theory, used by Prime Minister Grenville to rebut colonial cries of "taxation without representation" stated that every member of Parliament stood for the interests of every British subject in the empire.

No Taxation without Representation

This is a principle dating back to the Magna Carta that means if citizens are not represented in the government, then the government should not have the authority to tax them. The American colonists cited this principle when they opposed the authority of the British Parliament to tax them.

Stamp Act

This 1765 Act of Parliament was the first purely direct (revenue) tax Parliament imposed on the colonies. It was an excise tax on printed matter, including legal documents, publications, and playing cards, and the revenue produced was supposed to defray expenses for defending the colonies. Americans opposed it as "taxation without representation" and prevented its enforcement; Parliament repealed it a year after its enactment.

Stamp Act Congress

This meeting took place in New York City in 1765 to formulate a response to the ___ Act. The delegates composed a list of grievances, and they petitioned King George III and Parliament to repeal the hated act. This meeting marked the beginnings of cooperation between the 13 colonies that ultimately led to a full movement for independence.

Sons of Liberty

Wealthy merchants John Hancock and Samuel Adams formed this radical patriot organization in Boston in 1765. This group engaged in direct action against British rule, more or less covertly. In 1773, for example, they organized and executed the Boston Tea Party. Throughout the revolutionary period, they continued to fight, eventually disbanding in 1783 with the end of the war.

Declaratory Act

Parliament passed this act in 1766 when it repealed the Stamp Act. It stated that the colonies were entirely subordinate to Parliament's authority, and that Parliament had the authority to legislate for the colonies "in all cases whatsoever."

Townshend Acts

These acts of Parliament, passed in 1767, imposed duties on colonial tea, lead, paint, paper, and glass. Designed to take advantage of the supposed American distinction between internal and external taxes, these duties were to help support government in America. The act prompted a successful colonial nonimportation movement. Parliament gradually rescinded the tax on all of the items enumerated in the laws except tea. The episode served as another important step in the coming of the American Revolution.

Admiralty Courts

Starting with the Proclamation of 1763, these courts were given jurisdiction over a number of laws affecting the colonies. The jurisdiction was expanded in later acts of the Parliament, such as the Stamp Act of 1765. The colonists' objections were based on several factors, most notably that there was no trial by jury, and evidence standards were weaker than in criminal courts.

Massachusetts Circular Letter

The work primarily of Boston radical Samuel Adams, this was a plea to all colonial assemblies to unite in their protests against the hated Townshend Acts (1767). The British government viewed the letter as a direct challenge to Parliament's authority to rule the colonies ended the legislative session. Patriots in ___ used the episode to heighten colonial fears over the British government's lack of respect for colonial rights.

John Dickinson

In the years leading up to the Revolution, his writings were widely read in both America and England and he gained a reputation as the "penman of the Revolution." Essays like his "Letters from a Pennsylvania Farmer" helped to define American grievances. He was a member of the First and Second Continental Congresses and he helped to write the Articles of Confederation.

Boston Massacre

This violent confrontation between British troops and a Boston mob occurred on March 5, 1770. Five citizens were killed when the troops fired on the crowd that had been harassing them. The incident inflamed anti-British sentiment in the colony.

Committees of Correspondence

Colonial radicals formed these groups in 1772 in order to step up communications among the colonies, and to plan joint action in case of trouble. Their organization was a key step in the direction of establishing an organized colony-wide resistance movement.

Boston Tea Party

In 1773, patriot colonists led by the Sons of Liberty protested the Tea Act and the monopoly granted to the British East India Company by boarding three British ships in Boston Harbor and destroying 342 chests of Britsh Tea.

Coercive Acts

Parliament responded to the Boston Tea Party by passing these acts in 1774. They intended to punish Boston and Massachusetts generally for the crime committed by a few individuals. Colonists called these the Intolerable Acts.

First Continental Congress

Delegates from twelve colonies attended this meeting in Philadelphia in 1774. The delegates denied Parliament's authority to legislate for the colonies, adopted the Declaration of Rights and Grievances, created a Continental Association to enforce a boycott, and endorsed a call to take up arms.

Joseph Galloway

This influential politician in colonial Pennsylvania served in the First Continental Congress in 1774. In an effort to defuse the growing political crisis, he proposed a plan of imperial union with Great Britain in which the British Parliament and a Colonial Congress would both have to approve colonial legislation. But as Americans grew more radical and pushed for independence, the congress as a whole rejected his compromise proposal by a vote of six colonies to five.

Continental Association

In 1774, the First Continental Congress called for the boycott of British goods and the stopping of exports to England. This organization was created to enforce these measures. Local committees were established to enforce the provisions of the association.

Lexington and Concord

These battles, fought on April 19, 1775 were the opening engagements of the American Revolution. Though there had been increasing violence and unrest throughout New England for several years, the colonists killed 73 British soldiers and wounded 174 and therefore brought the American patriots into open rebellion.

General George Washington

He was appointed by the Second Continental Congress as commander-in-chief of the Continental Army in 1775. His ability to learn under duress and refusal to accept defeat kept an American army in the field. At the Battle of Yorktown in 1781 with French troop and naval support, he was able to entrap the British troops and force surrender. At the end of the war in 1783, he was the most famous man in America.

Second Continental Congress

This meeting gathered in May 1775 in Philadelphia. It was immediately faced with the pressure of rapidly unfolding military events. It served as the colonial government during the American Revolution. It issued paper money, made decisions that controlled the Continental Army, established committees to acquire war supplies, and investigated the possibilities of foreign assistance. This became the crucial governmental body of revolutionary America.

Bunker Hill

This first formal battle of the American Revolution took place on hills overlooking the Bitish forces concentrated in Boston. The British attack was eventually successful, but British casualties totaled 1,054, including 226 killed. Although an American loss, this battle showed that Americans could stand up to the British in a formal battle

General William Howe

He took command of British troops in North America after the Battle of Bunker Hill. He captured New York and Philadelphia, but botched the plan to isolate the New England colonies in 1777. He resigned in 1778.

Common Sense

This 50-page pamphlet, written by Thomas Paine, inspired the Declaration of Independence. Even after fighting broke out in April 1775, many Americans were reluctant to break their ties to England. Paine's publication in January 1776 helped remove that obstacle by convincing the colonists that further association with the English king was undesirable. It was highly influential and sold more than 120,000 copies in the first three months, making it the biggest best-seller of its time.


These German troops were hired by the British in 1775 to help suppress rebellion in the colonies. Colonists took offense, and Britain's use of these mercenaries made reconciliation with the colonies seem out of the question.

Declaration of Independence

Written by Thomas Jefferson and adopted by the Second Continental Congress on July 4, 1776, this justified the American Revolution by reference to republican theory and to the many injustices of King George III toward the colonies. The indictment of the king provides a remarkably full catalog of the colonists' grievances, and Jefferson's eloquent and inspiring statement of the contract theory of government makes the document one of the world's great state papers.


Sometimes called Loyalists, these Americans hesitated to take up arms against England. They may have been as much as one-third of the colonists in 1776. Many were royal appointees, Anglican clergymen, or Atlantic merchants. They were poorly organized and of limited help to British armies, but the Patriots persecuted them.

Battle of Long Island

George Washington and his army are badly beaten at this battle on August 27, 1776. Sorely outnumbered and surrounded at Brooklyn Heights, the 9,500 troops that survived retreated under cover of night across the East River to Manhattan.


Having lost at Newport, Rhode Island and been driven out of New York, the Continental Army's morale was very low. But Washington's bold decision to cross the icy Delaware on Christmas night, 1776 produced a victory here against Hessian soldiers and helped turned the tide for the Americans.

Benedict Arnold

He was arguably the finest tactical commander in the Continental Army and directly responsible for several important American victories. But his tempestuous disposition alienated friends and superiors alike. Furious because of a lack of recognition, he threatened to resign and ultimately considered joining with the British. When he offered to betray West Point to the British for a large cash sum, he fled to the safety of a British warship, completing the most notorious episode of treason in U.S. history.


In this 1777 battle, British General Burgoyne surrendered his force to American General Horatio Gates. The American victory proved to be a turning point in the American Revolution because it thwarted a British plan to divide the colonies and it convinced France to recognize the United States and sign the Treaty of Amity and Commerce.

Treaty of Alliance

This Treaty was a pact between France and the Second Continental Congress

General Nathaniel Greene

He was a major general of the Continental Army in the American Revolutionary War. When the war began, he was a militia private, the lowest rank possible; he emerged from the war with a reputation as George Washington's most gifted and dependable officer. He commanded Patriot armies in the backcountry of North and South Carolina in 1778-1781. His guerrilla tactics harassed General Cornwallis's army as it moved toward Virginia and the decision at Yorktown in 1781.

General Charles Cornwallis

This British general was second in command to Henry Clinton. His 1781 defeat by a combined American-French force at the Siege of Yorktown is generally considered the de-facto end of the war, as the bulk of British troops surrendered with him.


This battle proved to be the decisive battle in the revolutionary defeat of Great Britain at the hands of American colonists. After the failure of his Carolinas campaign, British general Lord Charles Cornwallis withdrew his army into Virginia and hoped to receive reinforcements. Before that could occur, however, the Franco-American Army, commanded by Gen. George Washington arrived and laid siege to the city. British reinforcements were also cut off by the arrival of French admiral François de Grasse, who drove the British Navy out of Chesapeake Bay and ensured that it could not support Cornwallis. Giving up any hope of assistance, Cornwallis surrendered his troops on October 19, 1781.

Treaty of Paris (1783)

This treaty officially brought a close to the American Revolution, with Great Britain recognizing the colonies' independence. Negotiated in Paris by Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, John Jay, the treaty granted to the fledgling United States nearly everything it wanted, including territroy extending to the Mississippi River. The document was formally signed on September 3, 1783.

Articles of Confederation

Ratified in 1781, this was the United States's first constitution. It sharply limited central authority by denying the national government any coercive power including the power to tax and to regulate trade. The articles set up the loose confederation of states that comprised the first national government from 1781 to 1788.

Abigail Adams

She holds a unique place in American history as both the wife of one president and the mother of another. In her own right, she was an ardent American patriot. Her perseverance during the American Revolution kept her family together and enabled her husband, John, to devote himself entirely to the patriot cause. Her letters provided her husband with information and shrewd insights into the political situation in Boston while he was absent. She remained a dedicated correspondent and apt political observer during the tumultuous early years of the nation until her death in 1818.

Land Ordinance of 1785

This act was adopted by the United States Congress (under the Articles of Confederation) on May 20, 1785. The act provided for the political organization of these territories and laid the foundations of land policy in the United States. Land was to be systematically surveyed into square "townships", six miles on a side and then be further subdivided for sale to settlers and land speculators. The law was also significant for establishing a mechanism for funding public education. Section 16 in each township was reserved for the maintenance of public schools.

Northwest Ordinance of 1787

Adopted by the Confederation Congress on July 13, 1787, this act applied to the territories north of the Ohio River and east of the Mississippi River. It provided for the governance of the territories and made a provision for the eventual admission of between three and five states from those territories. Since those states would have the same rights as the original 13, the law assured that the United States would not become a colonial power on the North American continent. The states eventually carved from this law were Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin.

Noah Webster

He established a uniform national language based on the unique way Americans wrote and spoke English. Dismayed by the fact that elementary schoolbooks in use were based on British models and contained practically no information about the United States, he prepared his own speller to rectify these omissions. For the first time, information about the European voyages to America and the history of the American Revolution appeared in a textbook. He then published his famous "A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language" in 1806. His work constituted the nation's social and cultural declaration of independence from England.

John Trumbull

He was an American artist during the period of the American Revolutionary War famous for his historical paintings including his Declaration of Independence.

Critical Period

This term, coined by John Quincy Adams, refers to the 1780's, a time right after the American Revolution where the future of the newly formed nation was in the balance. Large amounts of debt, high taxes, foreign affairs, domestic issues, and military concerns were some of the problems Americans faced shortly after the Revolution. These concerns prompted calls for a more vigorous national government that eventually resulted in the Constitution in 1787.

Shay's Rebellion

This was an armed rebellion of western Massachusetts farmers to prevent state courts from foreclosing on debtors unable to pay their taxes in1786-7. Fears generated by this rebellion helped to convince states to send delegates to the Constitutional Convention that met in Philadelphia in 1787.

Alexander Hamilton

During the American Revolution, he helped lead the assault at Yorktown that resulted in a British surrender. In the 1780s, he became a vocal critic of the Articles of Confederation, condemning them for their ineffectiveness. At the Constitutional Convention, he, with such notables as James Madison and Benjamin Franklin pushed for a powerful executive and federal supremacy. He rallied support for the new constitution through writing of several articles that, along with those of Madison and John Jay, became known as the Federalist Papers. With the Constitution ratified and Washington elected, he was appointed secretary of the treasury. As Treasury Secretary, he immediately confronted the main problem facing the new government, namely its finances. In building support for his program, Hamilton created the Federalist Party. In 1804, he was killed in a duel with his political nemesis, Aaron Burr.

Philadelphia Convention

Responding to calls for a stronger and more energetic national government, 55 delegates met in the summer of 1787 to draft a new constitution to replace the ineffective Articles of Confederation. The product that was created here, the Constitution of the United States, was ratified in 1788. It replaced the Articles of Confederation as the governing document for the United States, and transformed the constitutional basis of government from confederation to federation, also making it the world's oldest federal constitution.

James Madison

He is often called the "Father of the Constitution" for his critical role in the drafting of the U.S. Constitution. In addition to his remarkable contributions at the Constitutional Convention, he dedicated his life to public service: he authored many of the Federalist Papers; he crafted and sponsored the Bill of Rights; he joined Jefferson in founding the Democratic-Republican Party; he drafted the Virginia Resolves; (as Secretary of State) he guided the successful negotiations for the Louisiana Purchase; and (as president) he successfully guided the United States through the War of 1812.

Virginia Plan

This plan set the agenda for much of the Constitutional Convention. The plan was believed to have been written chiefly by James Madison. It was devised as a means to correct and enlarge the Articles of Confederation. Although the plan underwent many modifications, key principles like the separation of powers and bicameralism, and key institutions like the executive and judicial branches, clearly originated in this plan. It is most remembered now for its rejected proposal that representation within the national legislature be based solely on population.

New Jersey Plan

When James Madison offered the Virginia plan at the Constitutional Convention, calling for proportional representation in Congress, James Paterson responded with this plan, hoping to protect the less populous states. This plan called for equal representation for each state in a unicameral legislature. The controversy was resolved in the Great Compromise.

The Great Compromise

This plan was proposed by Roger Sherman of Connecticut at the 1787 Constitutional Convention to resolve differences between the Virginia Plan and the New Jersey Plan. It called for creating a national bicameral legislature: in the House of Representatives places were to be assigned according to a state's population (proportional representation) and filled by popular vote; in the Senate, each state was to have two members (equal representation) elected by its state legislature.

3/5 Compromise

Southerners wanted to count slaves as part of their overall population as a way to increase their representation in Congress. Northern delegates opposed to slavery generally wished to count only the free inhabitants of each state. This was the compromise between Southern and Northern states reached during the Philadelphia Convention of 1787 in which a fraction of the population of slaves would be counted for enumeration purposes regarding both the distribution of taxes and the apportionment of the members of the United States House of Representatives.

checks and balances

The Constitution contains ingenious devices of countervailing power. These checks on centralized power balance the authority of government between the co-equal branches of the presidency, Congress, and the Supreme Court. This is sometimes called the separation of powers.

federal system

This term describes a system of the government in which sovereignty is constitutionally divided between a central governing authority and constituent political units (like states or provinces). The Constitution embodies this principle, as opposed to the confederation established under the Articles.

elastic clause

This clause in the Constitution grants Congress the right to pass all laws "necessary and proper" to carry out the powers specifically granted to Congress by the Constitution. This clause was the source of Hamilton's implied powers doctrine and has been used by "loose constructionists" to increase the powers of the national government.

Electoral College

Specified in Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution, this group elects the nation's president. It was a compromise worked out during the Constitutional Convention of 1787 that allowed small and large states, and Federalists and Antifederalists, to feel that their interests were being met. It placed power in the hands of the states by allowing state delegates to choose the president. It is an important invention of the early republic and signifies the Founding Fathers' distrust of popular sovereignty by keeping the presidency out of the reach of direct democracy.


This term applied to those who advocated ratification of the Constitution; they were centralizing nationalists who were convinced that America's survival required the new, stronger government outlined in the Constitution.

Federalist Papers

Alexander Hamilton, with the help of James Madison and John Jay wrote this--a brilliant series of essays explaining and defending the national government created by the Constitutional Convention of 1787. These essays serve as a primary source for interpretation of the Constitution, as they outline the philosophy and motivation of the proposed system of government. According to historian Richard B. Morris, they are an "incomparable exposition of the Constitution, a classic in political science unsurpassed in both breadth and depth by the product of any later American writer."

John Jay

His involvement in the First Continental Congress drew him into full-time public service. He was elected president of the Second Continental Congress on December 10, 1778. Along with Ben Franklin and John Adams, he successfully negotiated the terms of the Treaty of Paris in 1783. Convinced that the Articles of Confederation did not provide a strong enough central government, he wrote five Federalist Papers in support of the new Constitution. President George Washington named him to be the first chief justice of the Supreme Court. Washington then asked him in 1794 to negotiate a treaty with Great Britain that recognized U.S. neutrality rights. His success was limited. The treaty he returned with bought time and helped avoid a war, but it did not contain British acceptance of American neutrality rights or halt the impressment of American seamen. He resigned as chief justice in 1795 to become governor of New York.


They were a loosely organized group that arose after the American Revolution to oppose the Constitution and the strong central government that it created. They feared the potential of strong governments to infringe on the liberties of the people and the rights of the states.

President George Washington

After the new government was organized, he was unanimously chosen to be president. He assumed the office of president on April 30, 1789, acutely aware that everything he did established a precedent. He hoped to prevent the rise of divisive partisanship and sectionalism by appointing the most talented people available to his Cabinet. Before he left office in 1797, the nation had a sound currency, adequate tax revenue to meet government expenses, an internationally respected credit rating, an adequate network of sound banks, and the start of a tax system designed to aid the development of manufacturing and maritime commerce. He decided not to seek reelection in 1796, thereby establishing the tradition of two terms for the presidency upheld until Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected to a third term in 1940.

Judiciary Act of 1789

Article Three of the United States Constitution created the Supreme Court and gave Congress the power to establish inferior courts. This landmark statute was adopted on September 24, 1789 in the first session of the First United States Congress. The law established the U.S. federal judiciary: it set the number of Supreme Court justices at six: one Chief Justice and five Associate Justices; it established a circuit court and district court in each judicial district; and it created the office of Attorney General.

Bill of Rights

This term refers to the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution. James Madison, considered the "father of the Constitution," guided the amendments through the new Congress. The amendments were ratified by the requisite number of states on December 15, 1791 and went into effect on March 1, 1792. The amendments protect individual liberties and states' rights against the power of the national government.

Report on Public Credit

This was the first of three major reports on economic policy issued by Treasury Secretary Alexander Hamilton on the request of Congress. The report analyzed the financial standing of the United States. Hamilton proposed a remarkable set of policies for handling the debt problem. All debts were to be paid at face value. The Federal government would assume all of the debts owed by the states, and it would be financed with new U.S. government bonds paying about 4% interest.


In his Report on Public Credit in 1791, Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton recommended that the national debt be funded at par. This meant calling in all outstanding securities and issuing new bonds of the same face value in their place, and establishing an untouchable sinking fund to assure payment of the interest and principal of the new bonds.

Bank of the United States

In 1791 Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton proposed the creation of this to store government funds, collect and expend government revenue, and issue common currency to serve as a national medium of exchange. Hamilton defended this institution as "necessary and proper" and therefore constitutional. Strict constructionists, like Jefferson and Madison however, believed it to be unconstitutional.

Whiskey Rebellion

Hamilton, unmoved by the plight of the farmers, convinced President George Washington to call up the militia and make a show of force against the farmers. The farmers chose not to fight, but the militia occupied some western Pennsylvania counties for months. This rebellion tested the principles of representative government and the powers of taxation in the new nation.

Citizen Genet

In 1793 he was dispatched to the United States to promote American support for France's wars with Spain and Britain. His goals in were to recruit and arm American privateers which would join French expeditions against the British. He also organized American volunteers to fight Britain's Spanish allies in Florida. His actions endangered American neutrality in the war between France and Britain, which Washington had pointedly declared in his Neutrality Proclamation.

Federalist Party

This party was formed during Washington's first administration in the heat of conflict over Hamilton's proposals to salvage the finances of the new republic. Under the leadership of George Washington and the intellectual guidance of Alexander Hamilton, this political party envisioned policies that would promote a thriving union based on a mixed economy of agriculture and manufacturing, a strong central banking system, opposition to widespread suffrage, and alliance with Britain—all to be directed by a strong national government. But opposition to the War of 1812 and the Hartford Convention of 1814 ensured a dive in the party's popularity. In the election of 1816, the party fielded a candidate for president for the last time.

Democratic-Republican Party

This political party was organized in the 1790s and became the first opposition party in US history. Following the ideas of Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, this party was opposed to a strong central government and a central bank and supported strict construction of the Constitution and the predominance of agriculture in the economy. In 1800, Jefferson was elected president after a bitter political campaign against Adams. For the first time, power was transferred peacefully from one faction to another.

strict construction

Secretary of State Thomas Jefferson held this view of the Constitution claiming Congress was limited to making only laws that were necessary. Unless powers were specifically delegated to the Congress by the Constitution, the powers should be reserved to the states or to the people. This interpretation of the Constitution would limit the power of the new national government.

loose construction

Secretary of Treasury Alexander Hamilton held this view of the Constitution claiming that Congress had the authority to pass all laws that were proper (implied powers). Unless the Constitution specifically forbade national legislation (Article I; section 9), then Congress had the authority ubnder the elastic clause of the Constitution. This interpretation of the Constitution would expand the power of the new national government.

Battle of Fallen Timbers

Beginning in 1790, a coalition of American Indians under Miami chieftain Little Turtle defied efforts by the U.S. government to remove them from their lands. The Miami scored two major victories against the US Army. The government responded by dispatching Gen. Anthony Wayne, a distinguished veteran of the American Revolution, to deal with the uprising. In 1794, Wayne confronted the main force of the Miami at this battle. Though Wayne lost 33 dead and 100 wounded, the Miami villages were destroyed. The defeat of the Indians led to the signing of the Treaty of Greenville in 1795, which ceded much of present-day Ohio to the United States, paving the way for the creation of that state in 1803.

Jay's Treaty

John Jay negotiated a treaty with Britain in 1794 in which the British agreed to evacuate posts in the American northwest and settle some maritime disputes. Jay agreed to accept Britain's definition of America's neutral rights. The terms of the treaty provoked a storm of protest, but it was ratified in 1795.

Pinckney's Treaty

Also known as the Treaty of San Lorenzo, this 1795 treaty established commercial relations between Spain and the United States, granted the United States free navigation of the Mississippi River through Spanish territory, and fixed the boundaries of Louisiana and Florida.

Washington's Farewell Address

President Washington decided not to seek reelection in 1796. Near the end of his term he delivered this address that warned the nation against the harmful effects of rivalry between political parties, and against the dangers of permanent alliances with foreign nations.

President John Adams

He was one of the lawyers who agreed to defend the British soldiers involved in the Boston Massacre. At the Second Continental Congress in 1775, he pressed for a complete break with England . In 1778, he was sent to Europe to obtain a treaty of alliance with France. Later, he returned to France and in concert with Franklin and John Jay, negotiated the Treaty of Paris (1783) with Great Britain to end the revolution. He was elected the first vice president of the United States. In 1796, he overcame Hamilton's opposition to his candidacy to win a narrow victory for the presidency. Vilified by the Republicans for not vetoing the Alien and Sedition Acts, he was defeated for reelection by Jefferson in 1800.

XYZ Affair

Peace commissioners sent to France by President Adams in 1797 were insulted by their French counterparts' demand for a bribe as a condition for negotiating with American diplomats. America's tender sense of national honor was outraged by this episode and Federalists increased demands for war against France.

Alien and Sedition Acts

In 1798 the Federalist Congress passed these four acts to attack the Republican party and suppress dissent against Federalist policies. The Acts curtailed freedom of speech and the liberty of foreigners resident in the United States. Democratic-Republicans maintained that the acts were an unconstitutional weapon to suppress political dissent, and the acts themselves proved wildly unpopular.

Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions

After the Federalist-dominated Congress adopted the Alien and Sedition Acts, Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, the leaders of the Democratic-Republican Party, responded by secretly authoring these papers. The resolutions suggested that the United States was a compact, much like that formed under the Articles of Confederation, and that states had the right, even the duty, to stop unconstitutional federal actions. Southerners like John C. Calhoun would later transform this vague doctrine of interposition into the doctrines of nullification and secession.

Election of 1800

This election was particularly important because it was the first election in which power was peacefully transferred from one national political party to another. All 73 electors who cast votes for Democratic-Republican Thomas Jefferson over Adams also voted for Aaron Burr, whom they expected to serve as vice president. When Jefferson and Burr tied, the election went to the House of Representatives, where it took 36 ballots and Hamilton's eventual support of Jefferson to break the tie. As a consequence, the Twelfth Amendment was adopted in 1804. Jefferson believed that his election had brought about a "revolution" in law and politics.

Twelfth Amendment

Following two chaotic presidential elections in 1796 and 1800, the U.S. Congress adopted this Amendment on December 2 and 3, 1803, proposing serious electoral reform for the presidency and vice presidency.

"Revolution" of 1800

The election of 1800 was considered this by Democratic-Republicans. Jefferson's victory would lead to a government that would put greater emphasis on states' rights than the previous Federalist administrations. Jefferson also repudiated the hated Alien and Sedition Acts and he attempted to bring the chief executive into greater touch with the people.


President Thomas Jefferson took this informal approach to the ceremonial responsibilities of his office--a demeanor he thought appropriate to the leader of a republic. At state dinners, for example, he ignored protocol and invited his guests to sit wherever there was an empty chair.

Judiciary Act of 1801

Passed by the lame-duck Federalists in Congress in 1801 after the election of Democratic-Republican president Thomas Jefferson, this act was a blend of needed judicial reform and partisan politics. The law added six new circuit courts and added 16 new judgeships, along with their support staffs, for outgoing Federalist president John Adams to fill. These judgeships were criticized as "midnight appointments."

midnight appointments

This was the name given to the 16 Federalists granted judgeships by the Judiciary Act of 1801. Hoping to keep the judiciary branch of the federal government under the Federalists' control for many years, outgoing President John Adams made the final appointments on his last night in office.

Marbury v. Madison

This supreme court case was pivotal in establishing the doctrine of judicial review of laws made in Congress and thus helped to shape the government of the United States. Chief Justice John Marshall effectively strengthened the judiciary as a co-equal branch of the federal government

John Marshall

He was Chief Justice of the United States from 1801 to 1835. His rulings strengthened the role of the court and constantly upheld the sanctity of contracts and the supremacy of federal legislation over the laws of the states. Though he established the precedent of judicial review, he also clashed with presidents Jefferson and Jackson over questions of constitutional interpretation.

Samuel Chase

A prominent political leader during the American Revolution, he was the only U.S. Supreme Court justice ever impeached. Despite his record of outstanding accomplishment on the Supreme Court, Congress voted to impeach him in 1804. His support of the Federalist-backed Alien and Sedition Acts and his overly zealous handling of treason and sedition trials involving Jeffersonians caused him to anger the president and his backers in Congress. While spared by only a narrow margin, he was acquitted, with the result that his trial discouraged future attempts to impeach justices for purely political reasons.

Barbary Pirates

These pirates in North Africa habitually seized trading vessels in the Mediterranean Sea and held crews and passengers for ransom. For years the new US government was too weak to deal effectively with the threat. President Jefferson dispatched a naval squadron to deal with the pirates, but the venture failed and the United States paid a financial tribute to the pirates until 1815. That victory demonstrated the growing strength of the United States and its ability to deal effectively with foreign affairs.

Toussaint Louverture

Born a slave in Saint-Domingue, in a long struggle for independence this man led enslaved Africans to victory over Europeans, abolished slavery, and secured native control over the colony of Haiti. This was the first successful attempt by a slave population in the Americas to throw off the yoke of Western colonialism. When Napoleon lost control of the colony, he became more inclined to sell the Louisiana Territory to the United States.

Louisiana Purchase

This has been called the greatest real estate deal in U.S. history, and it remains one of the largest peaceful annexations of land in world history. Stretching from British Columbia to New Orleans, from the Ohio River to the eastern border of New Spain. Although he did wonder whether he could constitutionally buy the land with the U.S. government's money, Jefferson pushed the deal forward. It soon became clear to American citizens that the new land would provide more opportunity for them.

Essex Junto

This was a group of die-hard Federalists who in 1804 organized a scheme to lead the northeastern states out of the Union. When Alexander Hamilton was offered a place in the plot to secede New England from the Union, he denied the offer. Consequently, the group turned to support from Aaron Burr, who also rejected the offer. Thus, the first attempt to break off New England from the Union failed since it was unable to gain support from the major power brokers in the state of New York.

Lewis and Clark

This was the commander and co-captain of the Corps of Discovery--a group of 33 men who set out from St. Louis, Missouri on May 14, 1804 to explore the Louisiana Territory. Throughout the trip, the explorers kept multiple copies of maps and notes of observations of the climate, vegetation, and people. Both also kept diaries with complex scientific observations of the animal and plant life encountered by the expedition.


She accompanied the Lewis and Clark Expedition during its journey to the Pacific Ocean between 1804 and 1806. She made important contributions to the success of the Corps of Discovery: she helped guide the expedition through unfamiliar territory and she helped translate when the expedition encountered Indian tribes.

Jeffersonian Democracy

This is the phrase used to describe the general political principles embraced by Thomas Jefferson. Jefferson favored reducing the size and scope of the national government. Once in office, he announced conservative fiscal policies that reduced the public debt also supported simplicity, disliking especially the ceremonial aspects of the Federalist administrations. Jefferson articulated a clear vision of what type of society and citizenry he thought was best suited for protecting American virtue: an agrarian society in which all men were honest, hardworking, and responsible—promoted independence derived from self-sufficiency.

Aaron Burr

He is chiefly remembered as the man who killed Alexander Hamilton in a duel in 1804. In the Election of 1800, he received the same number of votes as Thomas Jefferson. With no clear winner, the Constitution provided that the House of Representatives elect one of the two highest vote getters. Hamilton's influence helped secure the election of Jefferson for president. As vice president, he engaged in a scheme to establish several states in what was then the western United States as an independent country. This plan to help these areas secede from the United States was a treasonable offense and almost resulted in his conviction in 1807.


This was the practice of forcing unwilling men to serve in the military by often brutal and violent means. Between 1790 and 1814, the British, while searching U.S. vessels to seize deserters from the Royal Navy, frequently impressed naturalized U.S. citizens that were on board. America's sense of national honor was outraged and this became a cause of war in 1812.

Chesapeake Incident

This was the most important naval confrontation between the United States and Great Britain before the War of 1812 and in itself a cause of the conflict. The U.S. naval vessel was fired upon and boarded by British officers in 1807, and four sailors were impressed. The incident provoked a clamor for war in the United States, but President Jefferson asked Congress for the Embargo Act instead.

See more

Please allow access to your computer’s microphone to use Voice Recording.

Having trouble? Click here for help.

We can’t access your microphone!

Click the icon above to update your browser permissions and try again


Reload the page to try again!


Press Cmd-0 to reset your zoom

Press Ctrl-0 to reset your zoom

It looks like your browser might be zoomed in or out. Your browser needs to be zoomed to a normal size to record audio.

Please upgrade Flash or install Chrome
to use Voice Recording.

For more help, see our troubleshooting page.

Your microphone is muted

For help fixing this issue, see this FAQ.

Star this term

You can study starred terms together

Voice Recording