Bill of Rights (1791)
Popular term for the first ten amendments to the U.S. Constitution. The amendments secure key rights for individuals and reserve to the states all powers not explicitly delegated or prohibited by the Constitution.
Judiciary Act of 1789
Organized the federal legal system, establishing the Supreme Court, federal district and circuit courts, and the office of the attorney general.
funding at par
Payment of debts, such as government bonds, at face value. In 1790, Alexander Hamilton proposed that the federal government pay its Revolutionary war debts in full in order to bolster the nation's credit.
Transfer of debt from one party to another. In order to strengthen the union, the federal government assumed states' Revolutionary War debts in 1790, thereby tying the interests of wealthy lenders with those of the national government.
Tax levied on imports. Traditionally, manufacturers support tariffs as protective and revenue-raising measures, while agricultural interests, dependent on world markets, oppose high tariffs.
Tax on goods produced domestically. Excise taxes, particularly the 1791 tax on whiskey, were a highly controversial component of Alexander Hamilton's financial program.
Bank of the United States (1791)
Chartered by Congress as part of Alexander Hamilton's financial program, the bank printed paper money and served as a depository for Treasury funds. It drew opposition from Jeffersonian Republicans, who argued that the bank was unconstitutional.
Whiskey Rebellion (1794)
Popular uprising of Whiskey distillers in southwestern Pennsylvania in opposition to an excise tax on Whiskey. In a show of strength and resolve by the new central government, Washington put down the rebellion with militia drawn from several states.
Reign of Terror (1793-1794)
Ten-month period of brutal repression when some 40,000 individuals were executed as enemies of the French Revolution. While many Jeffersonians maintained their faith in the French Republic, Federalists withdrew their already lukewarm support once the Reign of Terror commenced.
Neutrality Proclamation (1793)
Issued by George Washington, it proclaiming America's formal neutrality in the escalating conflict between England and France, a statement that enraged pro-French Jeffersonians.
Fallen Timbers, Battle of (1794)
Decisive battle between the Miami confederacy and the U.S. Army. British forces refused to shelter the routed Indians, forcing the latter to attain a peace settlement with the United States.
Greenville, Treaty of (1795)
Under the terms of the treaty, the Miami Confederacy agreed to cede territory in the Old Northwest to the United States in exchange for cash payment, hunting rights and formal recognition of their sovereign status.
Jay's Treaty (1794)
Negotiated by Chief Justice John Jay in an effort to avoid war with Britain, the treaty included a British promise to evacuate outposts on U.S. soil and pay damages for seized American vessels, in exchange for which, Jay bound the United States to repay pre-Revolutionary war debts and to abide by Britain's restrictive trading policies toward France.
Pinckney's Treaty (1795)
Signed with Spain which, fearing an Anglo-American alliance, granted Americans free navigation of the Mississippi and the disputed territory of Florida.
Farewell Address (1796)
George Washington's address at the end of his presidency, warning against "permanent alliances" with other nations. Washington did not oppose all alliances, but believed that the young, fledgling nation should forge alliances only on a temporary basis, in extraordinary circumstances.
XYZ Affair (1797)
Diplomatic conflict between France and the United States when American envoys to France were asked to pay a hefty bribe for the privilege of meeting with the French foreign minister. Many in the U.S. called for war against France, while American sailors and privateers waged an undeclared war against French merchants in the Caribbean.
Convention of 1800
Agreement to formally dissolve the United States' treaty with France, originally signed during the Revolutionary War. The difficulties posed by America's peacetime alliance with France contributed to Americans' longstanding opposition to entangling alliances with foreign powers.
Alien Laws (1798)
Acts passed by a Federalist Congress raising the residency requirement for citizenship to fourteen years and granting the president the power to deport dangerous foreigners in times of peace.
Sedition Act (1798)
Enacted by the Federalist Congress in an effort to clamp down on Jeffersonian opposition, the law made anyone convicted of defaming government officials or interfering with government policies liable to imprisonment and a heavy fine. The act drew heavy criticism from Republicans, who let the act expire in 1801.
Virginia and Kentucky resolutions (1798-1799)
Statements secretly drafted by Jefferson and Madison for the legislatures of Kentucky and Virginia. Argued that states were the final arbiters of whether the federal government overstepped its boundaries and could therefore nullify, or refuse to accept, national legislation they deemed unconstitutional.
Adams, John (1735-1826)
American revolutionary, statesman and second president of the United States. One of the more radical patriots on the eve of the Revolution, Massachusetts-born Adams helped guide the Continental Congress toward a declaration of independence from Britain. From 1778 to 1788, Adams involved himself with international diplomacy, serving as minister to France, Britain and the Netherlands. After serving as Washington's vice president, he was elected president in his own right in 1796. Adams' administration suffered from Federalist infighting, international turmoil, and domestic uproar over the Alien and Sedition Acts, all of which contributed to his defeat in the election of 1800.
Genêt, Edmond (1763-1834)
Representative of the French Republic who in 1793 tried to recruit Americans to invade Spanish and British territories in blatant disregard of Washington's Neutrality Proclamation.
Hamilton, Alexander (1757-1804)
Revolutionary War soldier and first treasury secretary of the United States. A fierce proponent of a strong national government, Hamilton attended the Philadelphia convention and convincingly argued for the Constitution's ratification in The Federalist. As treasury secretary, he advocated the assumption of state debts to bolster the nation's credit and the establishment of a national bank to print sound currency and boost commerce. Hamilton died from a gunshot wound suffered during a duel with then-Vice President Aaron Burr.
Jay, John (1745-1829)
Leading American revolutionary and diplomat, who negotiated the Treaty of Paris and later, the much-criticized Jay Treaty of 1794, which averted war with Britain but failed to address key American grievances. Jay also served as the first chief justice of the Supreme Court from 1789-1795, a post he left to become governor of New York.
Little Turtle (1752-1812)
Miami Indian chief whose warriors routed American forces in 1790 and 1791 along the Ohio frontier. In 1794, Little Turtle and his braves were defeated by General Anthony Wayne at the Battle of Fallen Timbers, and were forced to cede vast tracts of the Old Northwest under the Treaty of Greenville.
Louis XVI (1754-1793)
King of France from 1774 to 1792, he, along with Queen Marie Antoinette, was beheaded during the French Revolution.
Talleyrand, Charles Maurice de (1754-1838)
French foreign minister whose attempts to solicit bribes from American envoys in the infamous XYZ Affair prompted widespread calls for war with France.
Washington, George (1732-1799)
Revolutionary war general and first president of the United States. A Virginia-born planter, Washington established himself as a military hero during the French and Indian War. He served as commander in chief of the Continental Army during the War of Independence, securing key victories at Saratoga and Yorktown. Unanimously elected president under the new national Constitution in 1788, Washington served two terms, focusing primarily on strengthening the national government, establishing a sound financial system and maintaining American neutrality amidst the escalating European conflict.
Wayne, "Mad Anthony" (1745-1796)
Revolutionary war soldier and commander in chief of the U.S. Army from 1792-1796, he secured the Treaty of Greenville after soundly defeating the Miami Confederacy at the Battle of Fallen Timbers.
Revolution of 1800
Electoral victory of Democratic Republicans over the Federalists, who lost their Congressional majority and the presidency. The peaceful transfer of power between rival parties solidified faith in America's political system.
Practice of rewarding political support with special favors, often in the form of public office. Upon assuming office, Thomas Jefferson dismissed few Federalist employees, leaving scant openings to fill with political appointees.
Judiciary Act of 1801
Passed by the departing Federalist Congress, it created sixteen new federal judgeships ensuring a Federalist hold on the judiciary.
midnight judges (1801)
Federal justices appointed by John Adams during the last days of his presidency. Their positions were revoked when the newly-elected Republican Congress repealed the Judiciary Act.
Marbury v. Madison (1803)
Supreme Court case that established the principle of "judicial review"—the idea that the Supreme Court had the final authority to determine constitutionality.
Tripolitan War (1801-1805)
Four-year conflict between the American Navy and the North-African nation of Tripoli over piracy in the Mediterranean. Jefferson, a staunch noninterventionist, reluctantly deployed American forces, eventually securing a peace treaty with Tripoli.
Louisiana Purchase (1803)
Acquisition of Louisiana territory from France. The purchase more than doubled the territory of the United States, opening vast tracts for settlement.
Corps of Discovery (1804-1806)
Team of adventurers, led by Meriwether Lewis and William Clark, sent by Thomas Jefferson to explore Louisiana Territory and find a water route to the Pacific. Louis and Clark brought back detailed accounts of the West's flora, fauna and native populations, and their voyage demonstrated the viability of overland travel to the west.
Orders in Council (1806-1807)
Edicts issued by the British Crown closing French-owned European ports to foreign shipping. The French responded by ordering the seizure of all vessels entering British ports, thereby cutting off American merchants from trade with both parties.
Act of forcibly drafting an individual into military service, employed by the British navy against American seamen in times of war against France, 1793-1815. Impressment was a continual source of conflict between Britain and the United States in the early national period.
Chesapeake affair (1807)
Conflict between Britain and the United States that precipitated the 1807 embargo. The conflict developed when a British ship, in search of deserters, fired on the American Chesapeake off the coast of Virginia.
Embargo Act (1807)
Enacted in response to British and French mistreatment of American merchants, the Act banned the export of all goods from the United States to any foreign port. The embargo placed great strains on the American economy while only marginally affecting its European targets, and was therefore repealed in 1809.
Non-Intercourse Act (1809)
Passed alongside the repeal of the Embargo Act, it reopened trade with all but the two belligerent nations, Britain and France. The Act continued Jefferson's policy of economic coercion, still with little effect.
Macon's Bill No. 2
Aimed at resuming peaceful trade with Britain and France, the act stipulated that if either Britain or France repealed its trade restrictions, the United States would reinstate the embargo against the nonrepealing nation. When Napoleon offered to lift his restrictions on British ports, the United States was forced to declare an embargo on Britain, thereby pushing the two nations closer toward war.
war hawks (1811-1812)
Democratic-Republican Congressmen who pressed James Madison to declare war on Britain. Largely drawn from the South and West, the war hawks resented British constraints on American trade and accused the British of supporting Indian attacks against American settlements on the frontier.
Tippecanoe, Battle of (1811)
Resulted in the defeat of Shawnee chief Tenskwatawa, "the Prophet" at the hands William Henry Harrison in the Indiana wilderness. After the battle, the Prophet's brother, Tecumseh, forged an alliance with the British against the United States.
Bonaparte, Napoleon (1769-1821)
French emperor who waged a series of wars against his neighbors on the European continent from 1800 until his final defeat at Waterloo in 1815. In 1803, having failed to put down the Haitian rebellion, Napoleon relinquished France's remaining North American possessions by selling Louisiana Territory to the United States.
Burr, Aaron (1756-1836)
Revolutionary War soldier and vice presi- dent under Thomas Jefferson, Burr is perhaps most famous for fatally wounding Alexander Hamilton in a duel in 1804. In 1806, Burr led a failed plot to separate the trans-Mississippi West from the United States. Narrowly acquitted of treason, Burr fled to France where he tried to convince Napoleon to ally with Britain against the United States.
Chase, Samuel (1741-1811)
Federalist Supreme Court Justice who drew the ire of Jeffersonian Republicans for his biting criticism of Republican policies. In 1804, the House of Representatives brought charges of impeachment against him but failed to make the case that his unrestrained partisanship qualified as "high crimes and misdemeanors." Acquitted by the Senate, he served on the court until his death.
Clark, William (1770-1838)
Joined Meriwether Lewis in leading the expedition of Louisiana territory from 1804-1806. After the Expedition, Clark played a key role in shaping America's Indian policy, seeking to strengthen American relations with the Indians through trade.
Gallatin, Albert (1761-1849)
Secretary of the treasury from 1801- 1813 under Thomas Jefferson and James Madison, Gallatin sought to balance the federal budget and reduce the national debt.
Hemings, Sally (1773-1835)
One of Thomas Jefferson's slaves on his plantation in Monticello. DNA testing confirms that Thomas Jefferson fathered Sally Hemings' children.
Jefferson, Thomas (1743-1826)
Author of the Declaration of Independence, ambassador to France, and second president of the United States. As one of the leaders of the Democratic-Republican Party, Jefferson advocated a limited role for the national government, particularly in the area of finance. As president, however, Jefferson oversaw significant expansion of the federal state through the purchase of Louisiana Territory and the enactment of the Embargo of 1807.
L'Ouverture, Toussaint (1743-1803)
Haitian revolutionary who led a successful slave uprising and helped establish an independent Haiti in 1797. In 1802, L'Ouverture was captured by a French force sent to reestablish control over the island. Shipped back to France and imprisoned for treason, he succumbed to pneumonia in 1803.
Lewis, Meriwether (1744-1809)
American soldier and explorer who led the famous expedition through Louisiana territory from 1804- 1806. After briefly serving as governor of Upper Louisiana territory, Lewis died in an apparent suicide in 1809.
Livingston, Robert R. (1746-1813)
American statesman who served as minister to France from 1801-1804 and negotiated the purchase of Louisiana Territory in 1803.
Madison, James (1751-1836)
Principal author of the Constitution, co-author of The Federalist, and fourth president of the United States. A leading advocate of a strong national government in the 1780s, Madison later joined Thomas Jefferson and the Democratic- Republicans in advocating a more limited role for the federal state. As president, Madison inherited the conflict over trade with Britain and France, which eventually pushed him to declare war on Britain in 1812.
Marshall, John (1755-1835)
Chief Justice of the Supreme Court from 1801 until his death in 1835, Marshall strengthened the role of the courts by establishing the principle of judicial review. During his tenure, the court also expanded the powers of the federal government through a series of decisions that established federal supremacy over the states.
Accomplished Shawnee warrior, Tecumseh sought to establish a confederacy of Indian tribes east of the Mississippi. He opposed individual tribes' selling of land to the United States, arguing the land belonged to all the Native peoples. After 1811, Tecumseh allied with the British, fighting fiercely against the United States until his death in 1813.
Tenskwatawa ("the Prophet") (1775-1836)
Shawnee religious leader, also known as "the Prophet," who led a spiritual revival, emphasizing Indian unity and cultural renewal and urging Indians to limit contact with Americans. The Prophet lost his following in 1811, after he and a small army of followers were defeated by William Henry Harrison at the Battle of Tippecanoe.
War of 1812 (1812-1815)
Fought between Britain and the United States largely over the issues of trade and impressment. Though the war ended in a relative draw, it demonstrated America's willingness to defend its interests militarily, earning the young nation newfound respect from European powers.
New Orleans, Battle of (January 1815)
Resounding victory of American forces against the British, restoring American confidence and fueling an outpouring of nationalism. Final battle of the War of 1812.
Congress of Vienna (1814-1815)
Convention of major European powers to redraw the boundaries of continental Europe after the defeat of Napoleonic France.
Ghent, Treaty of (1815)
Ended the War of 1812 in a virtual draw, restoring prewar borders but failing to address any of the grievances that first brought America into the war.
Hartford Convention (1814-1815)
Convention of Federalists from five New England states who opposed the War of 1812 and resented the strength of Southern and Western interests in Congress and in the White House.
Rush-Bagot agreement (1817)
Signed by Britain and the United States, it established strict limits on naval armaments in the Great Lakes, a first step in the full demilitarization of the U.S.-Canadian border, completed in the 1870s.
Tariff of 1816
First protective tariff in American history, created primarily to shield New England manufacturers from the inflow of British goods after the War of 1812.
American System (1820s)
Henry Clay's three-pronged system to promote American industry. Clay advocated a strong banking system, a protective tariff and a federally funded transportation network.
Era of Good Feelings (1816-1824)
Popular name for the period of one-party, Republican, rule during James Monroe's presidency. The term obscures bitter conflicts over internal improvements, slavery and the national bank.
panic of 1819
Severe financial crisis brought on primarily by the efforts of the Bank of the United States to curb overspeculation on western lands. It disproportionately affected the poorer classes, especially in the West, sowing the seeds of Jacksonian Democracy.
Land Act of 1820
Fueled the settlement of the Northwest and Missouri territories by lowering the price of public land. Also prohibited the purchase of federal acreage on credit, thereby eliminating one of the causes of the Panic of 1819.
Tallmadge amendment (1819)
Failed proposal to prohibit the importation of slaves into Missouri territory and pave the way for gradual emancipation. Southerners vehemently opposed the amendment, which they perceived as a threat to the sectional balance between North and South.
Widely used term for the institution of American slavery in the South. Its use in the first half of the 19th century reflected a growing division between the North, where slavery was gradually abolished, and the South, where slavery became increasingly entrenched.
Missouri Compromise (1820)
Allowed Missouri to enter as a slave state but preserved the balance between North and South by carving free-soil Maine out of Massachusetts and prohibiting slavery from territories acquired in the Louisiana Purchase, north of the line of 36°30.
McCulloch v. Maryland (1819)
Supreme Court case that strengthened federal authority and upheld the constitutionality of the Bank of the United States by establishing that the State of Maryland did not have power to tax the bank.
Legal doctrine which holds that the federal government can use powers not specifically granted or prohibited in the Constitution to carry out its constitutionally-mandated responsibilities.
Cohens v. Virginia (1821)
Case that reinforced federal supremacy by establishing the right of the Supreme Court to review decisions of state supreme courts in questions involving the powers of the federal government.
Gibbons v. Ogden (1824)
Suit over whether New York State could grant a monopoly to a ferry operating on interstate waters. The ruling reasserted that Congress had the sole power to regulate interstate commerce.
Fletcher v. Peck (1810)
Established firmer protection for private property and asserted the right of the Supreme Court to invalidate state laws in conflict with the federal Constitution.
Dartmouth College v. Woodward (1819)
Supreme Court case that sustained Dartmouth University's original charter against changes proposed by the New Hampshire state legislature, thereby protecting corporations from domination by state governments.
Anglo-American Convention (1818)
Signed by Britain and the United States, the pact allowed New England fishermen access to Newfoundland fisheries, established the northern border of Louisiana territory and provided for the joint occupation of the Oregon Country for ten years.
Florida Purchase Treaty (Adams-Onís Treaty) (1819)
Under the agreement, Spain ceded Florida to the United States, which, in exchange, abandoned its claims to Texas.
Monroe Doctrine (1823)
Statement delivered by President James Monroe, warning European powers to refrain from seeking any new territories in the Americas. The United States largely lacked the power to back up the pronouncement, which was actually enforced by the British, who sought unfettered access to Latin American markets.
Russo-American Treaty (1824)
Fixed the line of 54°40' as the southernmost boundary of Russian holdings in North America.
Brock, Isaac (1769-1812)
British general who helped stave off an American invasion of Upper Canada during the War of 1812. Brock successfully captured Detroit from American forces in August of 1812, but was killed in battle later that year.
Canning, George (1770-1827)
British foreign secretary who pro- posed what would later become the Monroe Doctrine—a declaration issued by James Monroe, warning European powers to refrain from acquiring new territories in the Americas.
Key, Francis Scott (1779-1843)
American author and lawyer who composed the "Star Spangled Banner"—now the national anthem— purportedly while observing the bombardment of Fort McHenry from the deck of a British ship where he was detained.
Macdonough, Thomas (1783-1825)
American naval officer who secured a decisive victory over a British fleet at the Battle of Plattsburg, halting the British invasion of New York.
Monroe, James (1758-1831)
Revolutionary war soldier, statesman and fifth president of the United States. As president, he supported protective tariffs and a national bank, but maintained a Jeffersonian opposition to federally-funded internal improvements. Though Monroe sought to transcend partisanship, even undertaking a goodwill tour of the states in 1817, his presidency was rocked by bitter partisan and sectional conflicts.