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John Adams

America's second president, Adams served from 1797 to 1801. A Federalist, he supported a powerful centralized government. His most notable actions in office were the undertaking of the Quasi-war with France and the passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts.

John Quincy Adams

Son of John Adams and president from 1825 to 1829. As James Monroe's secretary of state, Adams worked to expand the nation's borders and authored the Monroe Doctrine. His presidency was largely ineffective due to lack of popular support; Congress blocked many of his proposed programs.

Samuel Adams

A leader of the Sons of Liberty. Adams suggested the formation of the Committees of Correspondence and fought for colonial rights throughout New England. He is credited with provoking the Boston Tea Party.

Jane Addams

A reformer and pacifist best known for founding Hull House in 1889. Hull House provided educational services to poor immigrants.

The Age of Reason

Written by Thomas Paine. The Age of Reason was published in three parts between 1794 and 1807. A critique of organized religion, the book was criticized as a defense of Atheism. Paine's argument is a prime example of the rationalist approach to religion inspired by Enlightenment ideals.

Agricultural Adjustment Administration (AAA)

Created in 1933 as part of FDR's New Deal. The AAA controlled the production and prices of crops by offering subsidies to farmers who stayed under set quotas. The Supreme Court declared the AAA unconstitutional in 1936.

Albany Plan

Submitted by Benjamin Franklin to the 1754 gathering of colonial delgates in Albany, New York. The plan called for the colonies to unify in the face of French and Native American threats. Although the delegates in Albany approved the plan, the colonies rejected it for fear of losing their independent authority. The Crown rejected the Albany Plan as well, wary of cooperation between the colonies.

Horatio Alger

Author of popular young adult novels, such as Ragged Dick, during the Industrial Revolution. Alger's "rags to riches" tales emphasised that anyone could become wealthy and successful through hard work and exceptional luck.

Alien and Sedition Acts

Passed by Federalists in 1798 in response to the XYZ Affair and growing Republican support. On the grounds of "national security," the Alien and Sedition Acts increased the number of years required to gain citizenship, allowed for the imprisonment and deporation of aliens, and virtually suspended freedom of speech. Popular dissatisfaction with the acts secured Republican Thomas Jefferson's bid for presidency in 1800, and were the undoing of the Federalist Party.


The partership of Great Britain, France, and Italy during World War I. The Allies were pitted against the Central Powers of Germany and Austria-Hungary. In 1917, the U.S. joined the war on the Allies' side. During World War II, the Allies included Great Britain, the Soviet Union, the U.S., and France.

American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU)

Founded in 1920. The ACLU seeks to protect the civil liberties of individuals, often by bringing "test cases" to court in order to challenge questionable laws. In 1925, the ACLU challenged a Christian fundamentalist law in the Scopes Monkey Trial.

American Federation of Labor (AFL)

Founded in 1886. The AFL sought to organize craft unions into a federation. The loose structure of the organization differed from its rival, the Knights of Labor, in that the AFL allowed individual unions to remain autonomous. Eventually the AFL joined with the Congress of Industrial Organizations to form the AFL-CIO.

American System

Crafted by Henry Clay and backed by the National Republican Party. The American System proposed a series of tariffs and federally funded transportation improvements, geared toward achieving national economic self-sufficiency.

Annapolis Convention

Delegates from five states met in Annapolis in September 1786 to discuss interstate commerce. However, discussions of weaknesses in the government led them to suggest to Congress a new convention to amend the Articles of Confederation.

Susan B. Anthony

A leading member of the women's suffrage movement. She served as president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association from 1892 until 1900.


During ratification, anti-federalists opposed the Constitution on the grounds that it gave the federal government too much political, economic, and military control. They instead advocated a decentralized governmental structure that granted the most power to the states.

Anti-Imperialist League

Argued against American imperialism in the late 1890s. Its members included such luminaries as William James, Andrew Carnegie, and Mark Twain.

Anti-Saloon League

Founded in 1895, the league spearheaded the prohibition movement during the Progressive Era.

Articles of Confederation

Adopted in 1777 during the Revolutionary War. The Articles established the first limited central government of the United States, reserving most powers for the individual states. The Articles didn't grant enough federal power to manage the country's budget or maintain internal stability, and were replaced by the Constitution in 1789.

Assembly line

Industrialist Henry Ford installed the first assembly line while developing his Model T car in 1908, and perfected its use in the 1920s. Assembly line manufacturing allowed workers to remain in one place and master one repetitive action, maximizing output. It became the production method of choice by the 1930s.

Atlantic Charter

Issued on August 14, 1941 during a meeting between President Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. The charter outlined the ideal postwar world, condemned military aggression, asserted the right to national self-determination, and advocated disarmament.

Atomic Energy Commission (AEC)

After World War II, the AEC worked on developing more effective ways of using nuclear material, such as uranium, in order to mass-produce nuclear weapons.

The Awakening

Written by Kate Chopin in 1899. The Awakening portrays a married woman who defies social convention first by falling in love with another man, and then by committing suicide when she finds that his views on women are as oppressive as her husband's. The novel reflects the changing role of women during the early 1900s.

Axis powers

During World War II, the Axis powers included Germany, Italy, and Japan. The three powers signed the Tripartite Pact in September 1940.

Baby boom

Nickname for the 1950s, when economic prosperity caused U.S. population to swell from 150 million to 180 million.

Bacon's Rebellion

In 1676, Nathaniel Bacon, a Virginia planter, accused the royal governor of failing to provide poorer farmers protection from raiding tribes. In response, Bacon led 300 settlers in a war against local Native Americans, and then burned and looted Jamestown. The rebellion highlighted the increasing rift between rich and poor in the Chesapeake region.

Bank of the United States

Chartered in 1791, the bank was a controversial part of Alexander Hamilton's Federalist economic program.

Bank veto

Andrew Jackson's 1832 veto of the proposed charter renewal for the Second Bank of the United States. The veto marked the beginning of Jackson's five-year battle against the national bank.

Battle of Antietam

Fought in Maryland on September 17, 1863. Considered the single bloodiest day of the Civil War, casualties totalled more than 8,000 dead and 18,000 wounded. Although Union forces failed to defeat Lee and the Confederates, they did halt the Confederate advance through Northern soil.

Battle of Britain

Conducted during the summer and fall of 1940. In preparation for an amphibious assault, Germans lauched airstrikes on London. Hitler hoped the continuous bombing would destroy British industry and sap morale, but the British successfully avoided a German invasion.

Battle of the Bulge

The final German offensive in Western Europe, lasting from December 16, 1944, to January 16, 1945. Hitler amassed his last reserves against Allied troops in France. Germany made a substantial dent in the Allied front line, but the Allies recovered and repelled the Germans, clearing the way for a march toward Berlin.

Battle of Gettysburg

The largest battle of the Civil War. Widely considered to be the war's turning point, the battle marked the Union's first major victory in the East. The three-day campaign, from July 1 to 4, 1863, resulted in an unprecedented 51,000 total casualties.

Battle of Tippecanoe

Led by future president William Henry Harrison, U.S. forces defeated Shawnee forces in the Battle of Tippecanoe in 1811. The U.S. victory lessened the Native American threat in Ohio and Indiana.

Bay of Pigs Invasion

A failed attempt by U.S.-backed Cuban exiles to invade Cuba and overthrow Fidel Castro's communist government in April 1961.

The Beats

Nonconformist writers such as Allan Ginsberg, the author of Howl (1956), and Jack Kerouac, who penned On the Road (1957). The Beats rejected uniform middle-class culture and sought to overturn the sexual and social conservatism of the period.

Berlin Blockade

In June 1948, the Soviets attempted to cut off Western access to Berlin by blockading all road and rail routes to the city. In response, the U.S. airlifted supplies to the city, a campaign known as "Operation Vittles." The blockade lasted until May 1949.

Berlin Wall

Constructed by the USSR and completed in August 1961 to prevent East Berliners from fleeing to West Berlin. The wall cemented the political split of Berlin between the communist and authoritian East and the capitalist and democratic West. The Berlin wall was torn down on November 9, 1989, setting the stage for the reunification of Germany and signifying the end of the Cold War.

Big stick diplomacy

Theodore Roosevelt's foreign policy summed up his aggressive stance toward international affairs with the phrase, "Speak softly and carry a big stick." Under this doctrine, the U.S. declared its domination over Latin America and built the Panama Canal.

Bill of Rights

The first ten amendments of the Constitution, which guarantee the civil rights of American citizens. The Bill of Rights was drafted by anti-federalists, including James Madison, to protect individuals from the tyranny they felt the Constitution might permit.

Black codes

Granted freedmen a few basic rights but also enforced heavy civil restrictions based on race. The codes were enacted in Southern states under Andrew Johnson's Reconstruction plan.

Black Panthers

Organized in 1966 in Oakland, California by Huey Newton and Bobby Seale. The Black Panthers stressed a black pride, economic self-sufficiency, and armed resistance to white oppression.

Black Power

Coined by Stokely Carmichael, and adopted by Malcom X, the Black Panthers, and other civil rights groups. The term embodied the fight against oppression and the value of ethnic heritage.

Black Thursday

The stock market crash of October 24, 1929. After a decade of great prosperity, on "Black Thursday" the market dropped in value by an astounding 9 percent, kicking off the Great Depression.

Bleeding Kansas

The popular name for the Kansas Territory in 1856 after abolitionist John Brown led a massacre at a pro-slavery camp, setting off waves of violence. Brown's massacre was in protest to the recent establishment of Kansas as a slave state. Pro-slavery sympathizers had crossed into Kansas in order to vote illegally in the elections set up by the Kansas-Nebraska Act, resulting in the ousting of antislavery legislators.


Smugglers of alcohol into the United States during the Prohibition Era (1920-1933), often from Canada or the West Indies.

Boston Massacre

In March 1770, a crowd of colonists protested against Boston customs agents and the Townsend Duties. Violence flared and five colonists were killed.

Boston Tea Party

A protest against the 1773 Tea Act, which allowed Britain to use the profits from selling tea to pay the salaries of royal governors. In December 1773, Samuel Adams gathered Boston residents and warned them of the consequences of the Tea Act. Following the meeting, approximately fifty young men dressed as Mohawk Indians boarded the ships and dumped the cargo into the harbor.

Boxer Rebellion

A group of zealous Chinese nationalists terrorized foreigners and Chinese Christians, capturing Beijing (Peking) in June 1900 and threatening European and American interests in Chinese markets. The United States committed 2,500 men to an international force that crushed the rebellion in August 1900.

John Brown

A religious zealot and an extreme abolitionist who believed God had ordained him to end slavery. In 1856, he led an attack against pro-slavery government officials in Kansas, killing five and sparking months of violence that earned the territory the name "Bleeding Kansas." In 1859, he led twenty-one men in seizing a federal arsenal in Harper's Ferry, Virginia, in a failed attempt to incite a slave rebellion. He was caught and hanged.

Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka

A 1954 landmark Supreme Court decision that reversed the "separate but equal" segregationist doctrine established by the 1896 Plessy v. Ferguson decision. The Court ruled that separate facilities were inherently unequal and ordered public schools to desegregate nationwide. This decision was characteristic of the Supreme Court rulings under liberal Chief Justice Earl Warren.

William Jennings Bryan

Democratic candidate for president in 1896. His goal of "free silver" (unlimited coinage of silver) won him the support of the Populist Party. Though a gifted orator, Bryan lost the election to Republican William McKinley. He ran again for president and lost in 1900. In the 1920s, Bryan made his mark as a leader of the fundamentalist cause and the key witness in the Scopes Monkey Trial.

James Buchanan

A moderate Democrat with support from both the North and South who served as president of the United States from 1857 to 1861. Buchanan could not stem the tide of sectional conflict that eventually erupted into Civil War.

Bull Moose Party

The nickname of the Progressive Republican Party, led by Theodore Roosevelt in the 1912 election. The Bull Moose Party had the best showing of any third party in the history of the United States. Its emergence dramatically weakened the Republican Party and allowed Democratic nominee Woodrow Wilson to win the election with only 42 percent of the popular vote.

George Bush

Republican, vice president to Ronald Reagan and president of the United States from 1989 to 1993. His presidency was marked by economic recession and U.S. involvement in the Gulf War.

John Cabot

Explored the northeast coast of North America in 1497 and 1498, claiming Nova Scotia, Newfoundland, and the Grand Banks for England.

John C. Calhoun

Political figure throughout the Era of Good Feelings and the Age of Jackson. Calhoun served as James Monroe's secretary of war, as John Quincy Adams's vice president, and then as Andrew Jackson's vice president for one term. A firm believer in states' rights, Calhoun clashed with Jackson over many issues, most notably nullification.

Camp David Accords

Negotiaged by President Carter, the Camp David Accords were signed by Israel's leader, Menachem Begin, and Egypt's leader, Anwar el-Sadat, on March 26, 1979. The treaty, however, fell apart when Sadat was assassinated by Islamic fundamentalists in 1981.

Camp meetings

Religious revivals on the frontier during the Second Great Awakening. Hundreds or even thousands of people—members of various denominations—met to hear speeches on repentance and sing hymns.

Stokely Carmichael

Once a prominent member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, Carmichael abandoned his nonviolent leanings and became a leader of the Black Nationalist movement in 1966. He coined the phrase "Black Power."

Andrew Carnegie

A Scottish immigrant who in 1901 founded Carnegie Steel, then the world's largest corporation. In addition to being an entrepreneur and industrialist, Carnegie was a philanthropist who donated more than $300 million to charity during his lifetime.


Nickname given to northerners who moved South during Reconstruction in search of political and economic opportunity. The term was coined by Southern Democrats, who said that these northern opportunists had left home so quickly that they were able to carry all their belongings in rough suitcases made from carpeting materials.

Jimmy Carter

Democratic president of the United States from 1977 to 1981. Carter is best known for his commitment to human rights. During his term in office, he faced an oil crisis, a weak economy, and severe tension in the Middle East.

Jacques Cartier

A French sailor who explored the St. Lawrence River region between 1534 and 1542. Cartier searched for a Northwest Passage, a waterway through which ships could cross the Americas and access Asia. He found no such passage but opened the region up to future exploration and colonization by the French.


In September 1939, FDR persuaded Congress to pass a new, amended Neutrality Act, which allowed warring nations to purchase arms from the U.S. as long as they paid in cash and carried the arms away on their own ships. This cash-and-carry program allowed the U.S. to aid the Allies but stay officially out of the war.

Fidel Castro

A communist revolutionary. Castro ousted an authoritarian regime in Cuba in 1959 and established the communist regime that remains in power to this day.

Central Intelligence Agency (CIA)

Primarily concerned with international espionage and information gathering. In the 1950s, the CIA became heavily involved in many civil struggles in the Third World, supporting groups likely to cooperate with the U.S. rather than the USSR.

Central Powers

Germany and Austria-Hungary during World War I. The Central powers fought against the Allies (Great Britain, France, and Italy). In 1917, the U.S. joined the war effort against the Central Powers.

A Century of Dishonor

Written by Helen Hunt Jackson and published in 1881, A Century of Dishonor attempted to raise public awareness of the harsh and dishonorable treatment of Native Americans at the hands of the United States.

Samuel de Champlain

A Frenchman who explored the Great Lakes and established the first French colony in North America at Quebec in 1608.

Checks and balances

The principles established by the Constitution to prevent any one branch of government (legislative, executive, and judicial) from gaining too much power. Checks and balances represent the solution to the problem of how to empower the central government while also protecting against corruption and despotism.

Chesapeake-Leopard affair

In June 1807, the British naval frigate HMS Leopard opened fire on the American naval frigate USS Chesapeake, killing three men and wounding twenty. British naval officers then boarded the American ship, seized four men who had deserted the Royal Navy, hanged them from a yardarm, and sailed away. Outraged, Thomas Jefferson responded with the Embargo Act in an attempt to force Britain to respect American neutrality rights.

Chinese Exclusion Act

Passed by Congress in 1882 amid a wave of anti-immigrant sentiment among American workers. The act banned Chinese immigration for ten years.

Winston Churchill

Prime minister of England from 1940 to 1945. Churchill was known for his inspirational speeches and zealous pursuit of war victory. Together he, FDR, and Stalin mapped out the post-war world order as the "Big Three." In 1946, Churchill coined the term "iron curtain" to describe the USSR's division of eastern Europe from the West.

Civil Rights Act

Passed in 1964, the act outlawed discrimination in education, employment, and all public accommodations.

Civil Works Administration (CWA)

Created by FDR to cope with the added economic difficulties brought on by the cold winter months of 1933. The CWA spent approximately $1 billion on short-term projects for the unemployed but was abolished in the spring of that year.

Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)

Created in 1933 as part of FDR's New Deal, the CCC pumped money into the economy by employing the destitute in conservation and other projects.

Henry Clay

An important political figure during the Era of Good Feelings and the Age of Jackson. Clay engineered and championed the American System, a program aimed at economic self-sufficiency for the nation. As speaker of the house during Monroe's term in office, he was instrumental in crafting much of the legislation that passed through Congress. A gifted negotiator, Clay helped resolve the Missouri Compromise of 1820 and designed the Compromise of 1833 and Compromise of 1850. He led the Whig Party until his death in 1852.

Clayton Antitrust Act

Spearheaded by Woodrow Wilson in 1914. The act improved upon the vague Sherman Antitrust Act by enumerating a series of illegal business practices.

Bill Clinton

A Democrat, Clinton served as president from 1993 to 2001, during a period of intense partisanship in the U.S. government. Clinton's few major domestic and international successes were overshadowed by the sex scandal that led to his impeachment and eventual acquittal.

Christopher Columbus

Sailed to the New World under the Spanish flag in 1492. Although not the first European to reach the Americas, he is credited with the journey across the Atlantic that opened the New World to exploration. In 1493, he established Santo Domingo on the island of Hispaniola as a base for further exploration.

Committee to Defend America First

Advocated isolationism and opposed FDR's reelection in 1940. Committee members urged neutrality, claiming that the U.S. could stand alone regardless of Hitler's advances on Europe.

Committees of Correspondence

Organized by New England patriot leader Samuel Adams. The Committees of Correspondence comprised a system of communication between patriot leaders in the towns of New England and provided the political organization necessary to unite the colonies in opposition to Parliament. These committees were responsible for sending delegates to the First Continental Congress.

Common Sense

Written by Thomas Paine in 1776. Paine argued that the colonists should free themselves from British rule and establish an independent government based on Enlightenment ideals. Common Sense became so popular and influential that many historians credit it with dissolving the final barriers to the fight for independence.

Compromise of 1833

In response to the escalating Nullification Crisis, Andrew Jackson signed two laws aimed at easing the crisis. Together, these laws were known as the Compromise of 1833. The first measure provided for a gradual lowering of import duties over the next decade, and the second measure, known as the Force Bill, authorized the president to use arms to collect customs duties in South Carolina.

Compromise of 1850

Designed by Henry Clay and pushed through Congress by Stephen A. Douglas. The Compromise of 1850 aimed to resolve sectional conflict over the distribution of slave-holding versus free states. It stipulated the admission of California as a free state; the division of the remainder of the Mexican cession into two separate territories, New Mexico and Utah, without federal restrictions on slavery; the continuance of slavery but abolition of the slave trade in the District of Columbia; and a more effective Fugitive Slave Law. The compromise, however, proved incapable of stemming controversy over slavery's expansion.

Confederate States of America

States that seceded during the Civil War.


Church system set up by the Puritans of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, in which each local church served as the center of its own community. This structure stood in contrast to the Church of England, in which the single state church held sway over all local churches. Congregationalism assured colonists a role in directing the individual congregations, which became the center of religious, and often political, life in New England communities.

Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO)

Emerged from within the American Federation of Labor in 1938. The CIO became an influential labor group, operating during an era of government and business cooperation. In 1955, it merged with the AFL to become the AFL-CIO.

Congressional caucus

Met during the early years of the United States to choose presidential candidates. The caucus is significant in that it denied the public any voice in the nomination process, instead leaving the choice up to a centralized group of politicians based in Washington, DC. By the election of 1824, the congressional caucus had become a symbol of undemocratic elitist rule. Resented by much of the American public, the caucus lost its political influence in the early 1820s.

Connecticut Compromise

Reconciled the Virginia Plan and the New Jersey Plan for determining legislative representation in Congress. The Connecticut Compromise established equal representation for all states in the Senate and proportional representation by population in the House of Representatives.


A general term for any one of a group of Spanish explorers in the New World who sought to conquer the native people, establish dominance over their lands, and prosper from natural resources. The Conquistadors established a large Hispanic empire stretching from Mexico to Chile and wreaked havoc among native populations.


The Constitution is the document that outlines the operation and central principles of American government. As opposed to the Articles of Confederation, which it replaced, the Constitution created a strong central government with broad judicial, legislative, and executive powers, though it purposely restricted the extent of these powers through a system of checks and balances. Written at the Constitutional Convention, the Constitution was ratified by the states in 1789.

Constitutional Convention

A meeting to amend the Articles of Confederation. Delegates came to the convention from every state except Rhode Island in May 1787, and decided to draft an entirely new framework of government that would give greater powers to the central government. This document became the Constitution.


A policy established during Truman's presidency, at the start of the Cold War, that called for the prevention of further Soviet expansion by any means. Containment soon evolved into a justification for U.S. global involvement against communism.

Calvin Coolidge

President from 1923 to 1929, nicknamed "Silent Cal." The reticent Coolidge believed that government should interfere with the economy as little as possible and spent his time in office fighting congressional efforts to regulate business.

James Fenimore Cooper

An influential American writer in the early nineteenth century. His novels, The Pioneers (1823), The Last of the Mohicans (1826), and others, employed distinctly American themes.

Corrupt bargain

Although Andrew Jackson won the most popular and electoral votes in the 1824 election, he failed to win the requisite majority and the election was thrown to the House of Representatives. Speaker of the House Henry Clay backed John Quincy Adams for president, ensuring Adams's victory, and Adams rewarded Clay by making him secretary of state. Jackson and his supporters, enraged that the presidency had been "stolen" from them, denounced Adams and Clay's deal as a "corrupt bargain."

Cotton gin

Invented in 1793 by Eli Whitney. The cotton gin separated the fibers of short-staple cotton from the seeds. The mechanization of this task made cotton plantations much more efficient and profitable, giving rise to a cotton-dominated economy in the South.

Court Packing scheme

A court reform bill proposed by FDR in 1937. It was designed to allow the president to appoint an additional Supreme Court justice for each current justice over the age of seventy, up to a maximum of six appointments. Though he claimed the measure was offered in concern for the workload of the older justices, the proposal was an obvious attempt to dilute the power of the older, conservative justices. The Senate voted against the proposal later that year. Many historians argue that the proposed bill resulted in a loss of credibility for FDR, helping slow the New Deal to a standstill.

Jim Crow laws

State laws that institutionalized segregation in the South from the 1880s through the 1960s. Along with segregating schools, buses, and other public accommodations, these laws made it difficult or impossible for Southern blacks to vote.

Cuban Missile Crisis

In 1962, a year after the failed Bay of Pigs Invasion, the U.S. government learned that Soviet missile bases were being constructed in Cuba. President John F. Kennedy demanded that the USSR stop shipping military equipment to Cuba and remove the bases. U.S forces set up a naval blockade, preventing Soviet ships from reaching Cuba without inspection. After a stressful waiting period during which nuclear war seemed imminent, Soviet Premier Khrushchev backed down and began dismantling the bases in return for a U.S. promise not to invade Cuba.

George Armstrong Custer

A Civil War hero. Custer was dispatched to the hills of South Dakota in 1874 to fight off Native American threats. When gold was discovered in the region, the federal government announced that Custer's forces would hunt down all Sioux not in reservations beginning January 31, 1876. Many Sioux refused to comply, and Custer mobilized his troops. At the Battle of Little Bighorn, the Sioux wiped out an overconfident Custer and his men.

Clarence Darrow

A Chicago trial lawyer. Darrow earned fame in the 1925 Scopes Monkey Trial. Although Darrow's client, the teacher John Scopes, lost the case, Darrow argued masterfully in court, and in so doing weakened the influence and popularity of fundamentalism nationwide.

Dartmouth College v. Woodward

The Supreme Court under Chief Justice John Marshall ruled that the state of New Hampshire could not convert Dartmouth College to a state university because doing so would violate the college's contract, granted by King George III in 1769, and the Constitution forbids states from interfering with contracts. Republicans interpreted the decision and phrasing of the opinion as a shocking defeat for states' rights. Their reaction exposed political conflicts concealed under the facade of cooperation during the Era of Good Feelings.

Jefferson Davis

Former secretary of war, Davis was elected president of the Confederacy shortly after its formation. Davis was never able to garner adequate public support and faced great difficulties in uniting the Confederate states under one central authority.

Dawes Plan

Devised by banker Charles G. Dawes in 1924. The Dawes plan scaled back U.S. demands for debt payments and reparations from World War I, and established a cycle of U.S. loans to Germany. These loans provided Germany with funds for its payment to the Allies, thus funding Allied debt payments to the U.S.

Dawes Severalty Act

Passed in 1887. The Dawes Severalty Act called for the breakup of Indian reservations and the treatment of Native Americans as individuals rather than as tribes. Any Native American who accepted the act's terms received 160 acres of farmland or 320 acres of grazing land and was guaranteed U.S. citizenship in twenty-five years. Intended to help Native Americans integrate into white society, in practice the Dawes Act caused widespread poverty and homelessness.

Eugene Debs

A prominent socialist leader and five-time presidential candidate. Debs formed the American Railway Union in 1893 and led the Pullman Strike a year later. He helped found the Industrial Workers of the World, or Wobblies, in 1905. A pacifist, Debs opposed the government's involvement in World War I. In 1918, he was imprisoned for denouncing the government's aggressive tactics under the Espionage Act and Sedition Amendment; he was released in 1921.

Declaration of Independence

Drafted by Thomas Jefferson, the Declaration of Independence was approved by Congress on July 4, 1776. The document enumerated the reasons for the split with Britain and laid out the Enlightenment ideals (best expressed by John Locke) of natural rights to "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" upon which the American Revolution was based.

Declaration of the United Nations

Prompted by American entry into World War II, representatives from 26 nations signed the declaration on January 1, 1942. The signing countries vowed not to make separate peace agreements with the enemy and to uphold the Atlantic Charter.

Declaratory Act

Passed in 1776 just after the repeal of the Stamp Act. The Declaratory Act stated that Parliament could legislate for the colonies in all cases. Most colonists interpreted the act as a face-saving mechanism and nothing more. Parliament, however, continually interpreted the act in its broadest sense in order to control the colonies.

Deep Throat

The informant who helped Washington Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein as they delved into the Watergate scandal. Deep Throat's true identity remains a mystery to this day.


Influenced by the spirit of rationalism, Deists believed that God, like a celestial clockmaker, had created a perfect universe and then stepped back to let it operate according to natural laws.

Democratic Party

Andrew Jackson's party, organized at the time of the election of 1828. Throughout the mid- and late 1800s, the Democrats championed states' rights and fought against political domination by the economic elite. They opposed tariffs, federal funding for internal improvements, and other extensions of the power of the federal government. The party found its core support in the South. The party underwent a major transformation in the 1930s during Franklin Delano Roosevelt's presidency, when Democrats began to embrace a more aggressive and involved federal government. FDR's New Deal policies cost Democrats the support of the white South—their traditional stronghold—and won them the support of many farmers, urban workers, blacks, and women. This Democratic support base remains in place today.


The relaxation of tensions between the U.S. and USSR in the 1960s and 1970s. During this period, the two powers signed treaties limiting nuclear arms productions and opened up economic relations. One of the most famous advocates of this policy was President Richard Nixon's secretary of state, Henry Kissinger.

Dollar diplomacy

William Howard Taft's foreign policy. Taft sought to address international problems by extending American investment overseas, believing that such activity would both benefit the U.S. economy and promote stability abroad.

Dorothea Dix

A Massachusetts schoolteache. Dix studied the condition of the insane in poorhouses and prisons. Her efforts helped bring about the creation of asylums, where the mentally ill could receive better treatment.

Domino theory

The theory that if any nation fell to communism, the surrounding nations would likely fall as well. Expounded by Dwight D. Eisenhower, the domino theory served to justify U.S. intervention in Vietnam.

Stephen A. Douglas

Rose to national prominence as Speaker of the House, when he pushed the Compromise of 1850 through Congress. Douglas was the leading Northern Democrat of his day, a supporter of popular sovereignty and the author of the Kansas-Nebraska Act. He battled Abraham Lincoln for a seat in the Senate (successfully) in 1858, and for president (unsuccessfully) in 1860.

Frederick Douglass

Perhaps the most famous of all abolitionists. An escaped slave, Douglass worked closely withWilliam Lloyd Garrison to promote abolitionism in the 1830s.

Dred Scott v. Sandford

In 1857, the Supreme Court ruled that no black, whether slave or free, could become a citizen of the United States or sue in federal court. The decision further argued that the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional because it violated the Fifth Amendment's protection of property, including slaves, from being taken away without due process.

W.E.B. Du Bois

An African American leader opposed to the gradual approach of achieving equal rights argued by Booker T. Washington. Du Bois advocated immediate equal treatment and equal educational opportunities for blacks. He was one of the founders of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in 1909.

Dust bowl

The name given to the southern Great Plains region (Arkansas, Texas, Missouri, and Oklahoma) during the 1930s, when a severe drought and fierce winds led to violent dust storms that destroyed farmland, machinery, and houses, and led to countless injuries. Roughly 800,000 residents migrated west from the dust bowl toward California during the 1930s and 1940s.

Dynamic conservatism

President Eisenhower's philosophy of government. He called it "dynamic conservatism" to distinguish it from the Republican administrations of the past, which he deemed backward-looking and complacent. He was determined to work with the Democratic Party rather than against it and at times opposed proposals made by more conservative members of his own party.

Economic Opportunity Act

A component of Lyndon B. Johnson's Great Society. The Economic Opportunity Act established an Office of Economic Opportunity to provide young Americans with job training. It also created a volunteer network devoted to social work and education in impoverished areas.

Eighteenth Amendment

Ratified on January 16, 1919. The Eighteenth Amendment prohibited the manufacture, transport, or sale of alcoholic beverages. It was sporadically enforced, violated by many, and repealed in 1933.

Dwight D. Eisenhower

A Republican, served as president from 1953 to 1961. Along with Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, Eisenhower sought to lessen Cold War tensions. One notable success in this realm was the ending of the Korean War. Before serving as president, Eisenhower was the supreme commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force in World War II, coordinating Operation Overlord and the American drive from Paris to Berlin.

Eisenhower Doctrine

Announced in 1957. The doctrine committed the U.S. to preventing Communist aggression in the Middle East, with force if necessary.

Elastic clause

Article I, Section VIII of the Constitution. The article states that Congress shall have the power "to make all laws which shall be necessary and proper for carrying into execution . . . powers vested by this Constitution in the government of the United States." This clause was a point of much contention between those who favored a loose reading of the Constitution and those who favored a strict reading.

Emancipation Proclamation

Issued by Abraham Lincoln on January 1, 1863. The proclamation freed all slaves under rebel (Confederate) control. It did not affect the slave states within the Union or Confederate states under Union control, and therefore in practice freed few slaves. Nevertheless, the proclamation gave the war a new objective—emancipation—and crystallized the tension between the Union and the Confederacy.

Embargo Act

Endorsed by Thomas Jefferson and passed in December 1807. The act ended all importation and exportation in response to the Chesapeake-Leopard affair. Jefferson hoped the embargo would put enough economic pressure on the French and British that the two nations would be forced to recognize U.S. neutrality rights in exchange for U.S. goods. The embargo, however, hurt the American economy more than it did Britain's or France's, leading to the act's repeal in March 1809.

Emergency Banking Relief Act

The first act of FDR's New Deal. The Emergency Banking Relief Act provided a framework for the many banks that had closed early in 1933 to reopen with federal support.

Emergency Committee for Unemployment

Herbert Hoover's principal effort to lower the unemployment rate. Established in October 1930, the committee sought to organize unemployment relief by voluntary agencies, but Hoover granted the committee only limited resources with which to work.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

A leader of the transcendentalist movement and an advocate of American literary nationalism. He published a number of influential essays during the 1830s and 1840s, including "Nature" and "Self Reliance."

Enforcement Acts of 1870 and 1871

Sought to protect black suffrage in the wake of Klu Klux Klan activities.


An intellectual movement that spread through Europe and America in the eighteenth century. Also known as the Age of Reason, Enlightenment ideals championed the principles of rationalism and logic. Their skepticism toward beliefs that could not be proved by science or clear logic led to Deism.

Era of Good Feelings

The period between the end of the War of 1812 and the rise of Andrew Jackson in 1828, during which the United States was governed under a one-party system that promoted nationalism and cooperation. At the center was James Monroe's presidency, as Monroe strove to avoid political conflict and strengthen American nationalism and pride.

Leif Ericson

The alleged leader of a group of Vikings who sailed to the eastern coast of Canada and attempted, unsuccessfully, to colonize the area around the year 1000—nearly 500 years before Columbus arrived in the Americas.

Erie Canal

America's first major canal project. Begun in 1817 and finished in 1825, the Erie Canal stretched from Albany to Buffalo, New York, measuring a total of 363 miles.

Espionage Act

Passed in 1917, the act enumerated a list of antiwar activities warranting fines or imprisonment.


Founded on the premise that the "perfect" human society could be achieved through genetic tinkering. Popularized during the Progressive era, writers on eugenics often used this theory to justify a supremacist white Protestant ideology, which advocated the elimination of what they considered undesirable racial elements from American society.

Fair Deal

Truman's attempt to extend the policies of the New Deal. Beginning in 1949, the Fair Deal included measures to increase the minimum wage, expand Social Security, and construct low-income housing.

Fair Labor Standards Act

Passed in 1938. The Fair Labor act provided for a minimum wage and restricted shipment of goods produced with child labor, and symbolized the FDR administration's commitment to working with with labor forces.

Farmers' Alliance

Replaced the Grange as a support group for the nation's farmers during the 1880s. The alliances were politically active in the Midwest and South, and were central to the founding of the Populist Party.

Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)

Created as a part of the first New Deal to increase faith in the banking system by insuring individual deposits with federal funds.

Federal Emergency Relief Act (FERA)

One of the New Deal's most comprehensive measures, passed May 1933. FERA appropriated $500 million to support state and local treasuries that had run dry.

Federal Home Loan Bank Act

A late attempt by President Hoover to address the problems of destitute Americans. The 1932 Federal Home Loan Bank Act established a series of banks to make loans to other banks, building and loan associations, and insurance agencies in an attempt to prevent foreclosures on private homes.


Led by Alexander Hamilton. Federalists believed in a strong central government at the expense of state powers and were staunch supporters of the Constitution during the ratification process. They remained a political force throughout the first thirty or so years of the United States. The Federalists entered into decline after the election of Thomas Jefferson to the presidency and disappeared as a political party after the the Hartford Convention, at the close of the War of 1812.

The Federalist Papers

A series of newspaper articles written by John Jay, James Madison, and Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers enumerated the arguments in favor of the Constitution and refuted the arguments of the Anti-federalists.

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