11th Grade Vocab

United States History and Geography 11- Vocabulary


Abolitionists: people who advocated or supported the abolition of slavery in the U.S.

Absolute Location: The location of a place based on latitude and longitude.

Adam-Onis Treaty: The United States acquired Florida under the terms of the Adam Onis treaty with Spain. In return, the US government agreed to assume $5 million worth of debts for which the Spanish were liable. In addition, the US recognized the southwestern border between itself and the Spanish Empire at the Sabine River.

Albany Plan of Union: a meeting of delegates from seven American colonies, held in 1754 at Albany, New York, at which Benjamin Franklin proposed a plan for unifying the colonies.

Alien Act: law which required 14 years of residence instead of 5 to become a citizen. It also allowed the President to deport aliens deemed dangerous to the peace of the United States during peacetime. The final part allowed wartime arrest, imprisonment and deportation of any alien of an enemy power.

Allied Powers: Alliance of Great Britain, Soviet Union, United States, and France during World War II.

American Indian Movement (AIM): is a Native American activist organization in the United States. AIM gained international press when it seized the Bureau of Indian Affairs headquarters in Washington, D.C., in 1972, and in 1973 had a standoff at Wounded Knee, South Dakota.

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) (1990): a law that protects the right of people with disabilities to have equal access to the basic institutions and services of state and local government.

Anaconda Plan: The first military strategy offered to President Abraham Lincoln for crushing the rebellion of Southern states was devised by Union General-in-Chief Winfield Scott. It called for blockading the South and cutting the Confederacy in two through taking control of the Mississippi River.

Anti-Federalists: movement of the 1780s opposed the creation of a stronger national government under the Constitution and sought to leave the government under the Articles of Confederation intact. Important Anti-Federalists include Thomas Jefferson and Patrick Henry.

Appeasement: The policy of pacifying an aggressive nation in the hopes of avoiding further conflict.

Appellate Jurisdiction: the jurisdiction granted to particular courts to hear appeals of the decisions of lower tribunals and to reverse, affirm, or modify those decisions.

Arbitration: The settling of disputes (especially labor disputes) between two parties by an impartial third party, whose decision the contending parties agree to accept.

Archipelago: chain of islands.

Articles of Confederation: An agreement among the thirteen original states, approved in 1781, that provided a loose federal government before the present Constitution went into effect in 1789. There was no chief executive or judiciary, and the legislature of the Confederation had no authority to collect taxes.

Assembly Line Production: an arrangement of machines, tools, and workers in which a product is assembled by having each perform a specific, successive operation on an incomplete unit as it passes by in a series of stages organized in a direct line.

Assimilation: The process by which a person or persons acquire the social and psychological characteristics of a group.

Atlantic Charter: the joint declaration of President Roosevelt and Prime Minister Churchill (August 14, 1941) resulting from a conference at sea, setting forth the peace aims of their governments for the period following World War II. The declaration was later endorsed by a number of countries and incorporated in the purposes of the United Nations.

Attucks, Crispus: American patriot, probably a fugitive slave, killed in the Boston Massacre.

Axis Powers: Alliance of Germany, Italy, and Japan during World War II.


Bay of Pigs Invasion: an unsuccessful attempt by a CIA-trained force of Cuban exiles to invade southern Cuba with support from US government armed forces, to overthrow the Cuban government of Fidel Castro.

Berlin Airlift: a re-supply operation by the United States and England to the city of Berlin that lasted 11 months during 1948-49 when the Soviet Union attempted to close off the city.

Berlin Wall: fortified concrete and wire barrier that separated East and West Berlin from 1961 to 1989. It was built by the government of what was then East Germany to keep East Berliners from defecting to the West.

Bicameral: having two branches, chambers, or houses, as a legislative body.

Big Stick Policy: the slogan describing U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt’s corollary to the Monroe Doctrine. The term originated from the phrase, “Speak softly and carry a big stick.”

Bill of Rights: The first ten amendments to the Constitution of the United States. Among other provisions, they protect the freedoms of speech, religion, assembly, and the press; restrict governmental rights of search and seizure; and list several rights of persons accused of crimes.

Black Codes: laws passed, especially by southern states after the Civil War, to control the actions and limit the rights of African Americans.

Bleeding Kansas: a series of violent events, involving anti-slavery Free-Staters and pro-slavery “Border Ruffian” elements that took place in the Kansas Territory and the western frontier towns of the U.S. State of Missouri roughly between 1854 and 1858.

Bonus Army: a group of 12,000 WWI veterans who massed in Washington, D.C., the summer of 1932 to induce Congress to appropriate moneys for the payment of bonus certificates granted in 1924.

“Boss” Tweed: an American politician most famous for his leadership of Tammany Hall, the Democratic Party political machine that played a major role in the politics of 19th New York City and state.

Boston Massacre: A clash between British troops and townspeople in Boston in 1770, before the Revolutionary War. The British fired into a crowd that was threatening them, killing five, including Crispus Attucks.

Boston Tea Party: a raid on three British ships in Boston Harbor (December 16, 1773) in which Boston colonists, disguised as Indians, threw the contents of several hundred chests of tea into the harbor as a protest against British taxes on tea and against the monopoly granted the East India Company.

Boycotts: The refusal to purchase the products of an individual, corporation , or nation as a way to bring social and political pressure for change.

Brinkmanship: the policy of pushing a dangerous situation to the brink of disaster (war). In the Cold War refers to the constant competition between the United States of America and the Soviet Union.

Broad (loose) interpretation: the belief that the federal government can act relatively freely as long as the Constitution does not explicitly prohibit an action.

Bureau of Indian Affairs: a division of the Department of the Interior that administers federal programs benefiting Native American peoples

Bull Market: a stock market characterized by rising prices.

Buying on Margin: A risky short-term strategy where a buyer borrows money from a broker to make an investment. The buyer believes the stock price will rise and is trying to maximize profits by investing more money in the stock. The potential profit is used to repay the loan.


Cabinet: A select group of officials who advise the head of government specifically the President.

Camp David Accords: the landmark 1978 agreement between Israel and Egypt that paved the way for peace between the two countries. Named after the Camp David retreat where US President Carter brought the sides together.

Carpetbaggers: a Northerner who went to the South after the Civil War and became active in Republican politics, especially so as to profiteer from the unsettled social and political conditions of the area during Reconstruction.

Cash and Carry: American foreign policy prior to entry into World War II; required that belligerents pay cash and carry products away in their own ships. This arrangement minimized risks to American exports, loans, and shipping.

Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882: acts forbidding the immigration of Chinese laborers into the United States.

Civil Rights Act of 1964: a landmark piece of legislation in the United States that outlawed unequal application of voter registration requirements and racial segregation in schools, at the workplace and by facilities that served the general public.

Collective Bargaining: the process by which wages, hours, rules, and working conditions are negotiated and agreed upon by a union with an employer for all the employees collectively whom it represents.

Commander-in-Chief: The role of the United States president as highest ranking officer in the armed forces.

Common Sense: A pamphlet written by Thomas Paine that called for the United States to declare independence from Britain immediately.

Compromise of 1877: an unwritten agreement made between the Republicans and Democrats that resolved the impasse about the result of the presidential elections of 1876 between Rutherford B. Hayes (R) and Samuel J. Tilden (D). It brought a formal end to the Reconstruction Era with Rutherford B. Hayes being elected President.

Concurrent Powers: powers shared by the federal and state governments.

Confederation: A group of nations or states, or a government encompassing several states or political divisions, in which the component states retain considerable independence. The members of a confederation often delegate only a few powers to the central authority.

Congress of Racial Equality (CORE): formed in 1942 to improve race relations and end discriminatory policies through direct-action projects. Group followed the teachings of Gandhi by using non-violent protest to reach their goals. They organized “freedom rides” to desegregate interstate transportation.

Conservation: the careful use of preserving of natural resources.

Conspicuous Consumption: Buying unnecessary and expensive products and services as a way to show off wealth. The term was coined by U.S. economist Thorstein Veblen in The Theory of the Leisure Class

Constitutional Convention: the convention in Philadelphia (1787) of representatives from each of the former Colonies, except Rhode Island, at which the Constitution of the United States was framed.

Consumer Protection: measures to shield buyers of goods and services from unsafe products and unfair or illegal sales practices.

Containment: a United States policy using military, economic, and diplomatic strategies to temper the spread of Communism, enhance America’s security and influence abroad.

Corrupt Bargain: In the 1824 U.S. presidential election, no candidate received a majority of the electoral votes. Andrew Jackson led with 99 votes, followed by John Quincy Adams with 84, William Harris Crawford with 41 and Henry Clay with 37. Under the 12th Amendment procedure, the House of Representatives had to choose a president from the top three candidates. Clay, thus out of the race, threw his support to Adams, who was elected by the House. Adams in turn named Clay his Secretary of State, an arrangement that Jackson supporters labeled the “corrupt bargain”.

Court-Packing: an unsuccessful attempt by President Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1937 to appoint up to six additional justices to the Supreme Court, which had invalidated a number of his New Deal laws.

Crittenden Compromise: a series of constitutional amendments proposed in Congress in 1860 to serve as a compromise between proslavery and antislavery factions, one of which would have permitted slavery in the territories south but not north of latitude 36°30′N.

Cuban Missile Crisis: a 1961 crises that developed as a result of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro’s decision to allow the Soviet Union to base nuclear missiles in Cuba. Upon discovery, the United States confronted the Soviet Union and demanded the missiles be removed. For nearly two weeks, nuclear war was imminent. Fortunately, diplomacy succeeded and crisis was averted.


D-Day: The code name for the first day of a military attack, especially the American and British invasion of German-occupied France during WWII on June 6, 1944

Declaration of Independence: The fundamental document establishing the United States as a nation, adopted on July 4, 1776. The declaration was ordered and approved by the Continental Congress and written largely by Thomas Jefferson. It declared the thirteen colonies represented in the Continental Congress independent from Britain, offered reasons for the separation, and laid out the principles for which the Revolutionary War was fought.

Deficit Spending: the practice of spending funds in excess of income, especially by a government in order to stimulate the economy.

Delegated Powers: powers given to the federal government.

Democracy: A system of government in which power is vested in the people, who rule either directly or through freely elected representatives.

Democratic-Republican Party: Also known as the Anti-Federalist party, they were the opposition to the Federalist party and believed in following a strict view of the U.S. Constitution. They also fought to have the Bill of Rights added to the U.S. Constitution to preserve the rights of the people and the states. Consisting of the middle- and lower-classes, Democratic-Republicans favored a weak federal government, and an economy based solely on agriculture.

Demographic Map: A map that shows the placement of groups of people by different categories such as age or income or education.

Denied powers: those powers which are denied from the federal government, state governments or both. (ex: the right to vote)

Détente: refers to a period from the late 1960’s to 1970’s when the cold war tension between the United States and the USSR was reduced.

Direct Election of Senators: system put into practice under the 17th Amendment whereby the voters rather than the state legislators elect members of the U.S. Senate.

Direct Primary: allows voters, rather than party leaders, to select candidates who will run for office.

Distribution of Wealth: a comparison of the wealth of various members or groups in a society.

Dollar Diplomacy: The use of diplomatic influence, economic pressure, and military power to protect a nation’s economic and business interests abroad. The term was first used to describe the exploitative nature of United States involvement in Latin America.

Domino Theory: the idea that if one key nation in a region fell to control of communists, others would follow like toppling dominoes.

Dred Scott v. Sanford: Dred Scott was a United States slave who sued for liberty after living in a non-slave state; he caused the Supreme Court to declare the Missouri Compromise unconstitutional and to establish the principle that slaves are property not citizens.

Dust Bowl: A parched region of the Great Plains, including parts of Oklahoma, Arkansas, and Texas, where a combination of drought and soil erosion created enormous dust storms in the 1930s.


Eisenhower Doctrine: a country could request American economic assistance and/or aid from U.S. military forces if it was being threatened by armed aggression from another state. Eisenhower singled out the Soviet Union.

Elastic clause: a statement in the U.S. Constitution (Article I, Section 8) granting Congress the power to pass all laws necessary and proper for carrying out the enumerated list of powers.

Electoral College: The presidential electors who meet after the citizens vote for president and cast ballots for the president and vice president. Each state is granted the same number of electors as it has senators and members or the House of Representatives.

Emancipation Proclamation: A proclamation made by President Abraham Lincoln in 1863 that all slaves under the Confederacy were from then on “forever free.” It did not free any slaves in the Union, because it applied only to rebellious areas that the federal government did not then control. It did not affect the four slave states that stayed in the Union: Delaware, Maryland, Kentucky, and Missouri.

Emergency Quota Act of 1921: law that sharply limited the number of immigrants to the United States each year to about 350,000.

Enlightenment: a movement in the 18th century that stressed the importance of reason and science in philosophy and the study of human society. Occurred in Western Europe.

Equal Rights Amendment (ERA): A proposed amendment to the US Constitution stating that civil rights may not be denied on the basis of one’s sex.

Evil Empire Speech: A speech given by Ronald Reagan in 1983 in which he called the Soviet Union an “evil empire” and “the focus of evil in the modern world.”

Excise Tax: A duty or sales tax on the manufacture, sale, or consumption of goods produced within a nation that are not necessary for one’s survival.

Executive branch: The branch of federal and state government that is broadly responsible for implementing, supporting, and enforcing the laws.


Factory System: a manufacturing method for a standardized product or products in which fixed capital, raw material, and labor operations are centralized and sophisticated machinery is often used.

Fair Deal: a 21 point program introduced by President Harry Truman of domestic legislation outlining a series of proposed actions in the fields of economic development and social welfare.

Farm Aid: Reagan administration paid farmers to not plant millions of acres of land to reduce the supply to help raise prices. Prices did not rise and this program increased the national debt.

Fascism: A system of government that promotes extreme nationalism, repression, anticommunism, and is ruled by a dictator.

Federal District Court: a court established by the federal government and having jurisdiction over questions of federal law.

Federalists: supporters of the Philadelphia constitutional convention and the Constitution in 1787. Important Federalists included Alexander Hamilton and James Madison.

Federalists Papers: a series of 85 essays (1787–88) by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay, written in support of the Constitution.

Federal Reserve System: the nation’s central banking system, established in 1913; a system of 12 regional banks overseen by a central board. Is has wide powers which includes controlling credit and the flow of money as well as in performing other functions, as regulating and supervising its member banks.

Filibuster: strategy employed in the United States Senate, whereby a minority can delay a vote on proposed legislation by making long speeches or introducing irrelevant issues. A successful filibuster can force withdrawal of a bill. Filibusters can be ended only by cloture.

Fifteenth Amendment: Constitutional amendment that states could not keep citizens from voting because of “race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

First Continental Congress: convened in Philadelphia’s Carpenters Hall on September 5, 1774. It sought rather to right the wrongs that had been inflicted on the colonies and hoped that a unified voice would gain them a hearing in London.

First National Bank: The first national bank was championed by Alexander Hamilton, Secretary of Treasury under Washington, as part of his financial plan. The bank was created using the Elastic Clause because it was to help Congress with the collection of taxes and regulation of the nation’s currency.

Flapper: a young woman, especially one who, during the 1920s, behaved and dressed in a boldly unconventional manner.

Fourteen Points: Fourteen goals of the United States in the peace negotiations after World War I. President Woodrow Wilson announced the Fourteen Points to Congress in early 1918. They included public negotiations between nations, freedom of navigation, free trade, self-determination for several nations involved in the war, and the establishment of an association of nations (League of Nations) to keep the peace.

Fourteenth Amendment: Constitutional amendment that all native born or naturalized people were citizens, states cannot deprive any person life, liberty, or property without due process of law and that everyone must have equal protection under the law. Also limits the rights of former Confederates and promises to pay debts of the Federal government occurred during the Civil War but not Confederate debt.

Free Enterprise: The freedom of private businesses to operate competitively for profit with minimal governmental regulation.

Freedmen’s Bureau: an agency of the War Department set up in 1865 to assist freed slaves in obtaining relief, land, jobs, fair treatment, and education.

French and Indian War: the war in America in which France and its Indian allies opposed England 1754–60: ended by Treaty of Paris in 1763.

Fugitive Slave Law: A law passed as part of the Compromise of 1850, which provided southern slaveholders with legal weapons to capture slaves who had escaped to the free states. The law was highly unpopular in the North and helped to convert many previously indifferent northerners to antislavery.


Gadsden Purchase: a tract of 45,535 sq. mi. (117,935 sq. km), now contained in New Mexico and Arizona, purchased for $10,000,000 from Mexico in 1853, the treaty being negotiated by James Gadsden.

Gentlemen’s Agreement: informal agreement between the United States and Japan in 1907 to limit Japanese immigration to his country.

Good Neighbor Policy: policy of President Hoover and later President Franklin Roosevelt to improve relations in Latin America. It meant less emphasis on intervention and more on cooperation

Graduated Income Tax: a system that taxed larger incomes at a higher rate than it did lower ones.

Grandfather Clauses: clause in the constitutions of some Southern states after 1890 intended to permit whites to vote while disfranchising blacks: it exempted from new literacy and property qualifications for voting those men entitled to vote before 1867.

The Great Compromise (Connecticut Plan): a compromise adopted at the Constitutional Convention, providing the states with equal representation in the Senate and proportional representation in the House of Representatives.

Great Depression: period of economic hard times from 1929-1941.

Great Migration: the movement of 4.1 million African Americans out of the Southern United States to the North, Midwest and West from 1910 to 1930.

Great Society: The name President Lyndon Johnson gave to his aims in domestic policy. The programs had several goals, including clean air and water, expanded educational opportunities, and the lessening of poverty and disease in the United States.

Gross National Product (GNP): the total monetary value of all final goods and services produced in a country during one year.

Gulf of Tonkin Resolution: Congressional resolution passed in 1964 that authorized military action in Southeast Asia in reaction to an event that allegedly occurred on Aug. 4, 1964. North Vietnamese torpedo boats in the Gulf of Tonkin were alleged to have attacked without provocation U.S. destroyers that were reporting intelligence information to South Vietnam.


Harlem Renaissance: An African-American cultural movement of the 1920s and 1930s, centered in Harlem, that celebrated black traditions, the black voice, and black ways of life.

Harpers Ferry Raid: The place now in West Virginia where the militant abolitionist John Brown was captured in 1859, after he seized a federal arsenal there. He was attempting to start a slave insurrection.

Holocaust: The attempted genocide of European Jews, Gypsies, mentally retarded, homosexuals, and others by Nazi Germany during the Second World War.

Homeland Security Act: Established the Department of Homeland Security. The main goal is to prevent and reduce the risk of terrorist attacks.

Hoovervilles: The encampments of the poor and homeless that sprang up during the Great Depression. They were named with ironic intent after President Herbert Hoover, who was in office when the depression started.

House of Burgesses: the assembly of representatives in colonial Virginia.


Imperialism: The complete control of a weaker nation’s social, economic, and political life by a stronger nation.

Implied powers: those delegated powers of the national government implied by (inferred from) the expressed powers; those powers “necessary and proper” to carry out the delegated powers.

Indentured Servants: a person who came to America and was placed under contract to work for another over a period of time, usually seven years, esp. during the 17th to 19th centuries.

Indian Removal Act: provided funds for President Andrew Jackson to conduct land-exchange, or removal treaties. An estimated 100,000 American Indians eventually relocated in the West as a result of this policy, most of them emigrating during the Trail of Tears during the 1830s, settling in what was known as the, “Indian territory” or the present state of Oklahoma.

Indian Reorganization Act (1934): U.S. legislation that which secured certain rights to Native Americans including the right to regulate their own lands.

Industrial Revolution: The rapid industrial growth that began in England during the middle of the eighteenth century and then spread over the next 50 years to many other countries, including the United States.

Initiative: allowing voters to petition the legislature to consider a proposed law.

Injunction: A court order that either compels or restrains an act by an individual, organization, or government official. In labor-management relations, injunctions have been used to prevent workers from going on strike.

Interchangeable Parts: Identical components that can substitute one for another, particularly important in manufacturing. Mass production, which transformed the organization of work, came about by the development of the machine-tool industry by a series of 19th-century innovators.

Internment: the imprisonment or confinement of people, commonly in large groups, without trial. The American Japanese were placed in internment camps during WWII.

Intolerable Acts: Also known as the Coercive Acts; a series of British measures passed in 1774 and designed to punish the Massachusetts colonists for the Boston Tea Party. For example, one of the laws closed the port of Boston until the colonists paid for the tea that they had destroyed.

Iran-Contra Scandal: a political scandal in the United States which came to light in November 1986, during the Reagan administration, in which senior US figures agreed to facilitate the sale of arms to Iran, the subject of an arms embargo, to secure the release of American hostages in Lebanon while funding the Contras in Nicaragua who were fighting against the communist (Sandinistas) there.

Iran Hostage Crisis: a diplomatic crisis between Iran and the United States where 53 Americans were held hostage for 444 days from November 4, 1979 to January 20, 1981, after a group of Islamist students and militants took over the American Embassy in support of the Iranian Revolution.

Iron Curtain Speech: a speech given by Winston Churchill to describe the division between free and communist societies taking shape in Europe after 1946.

Iroquois Confederacy: A Native American confederacy inhabiting New York State and originally composed of the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, and Seneca peoples, known as the Five Nations. After 1722 the confederacy was joined by the Tuscaroras to form the Six Nations. It was formed in the 1570’s and served as a powerful government for the members. It powerful enough to keep its lands from European powers for nearly two centuries.

Island Hopping: the American strategy in the Pacific during World War II. It involved a leapfrogging movement of American forces from one strategic island to the next until American forces were in control of the Pacific and prepared to invade Japan.


Jamestown Colony: The first permanent English settlement in North America, founded in 1607 in Virginia. Jamestown was named for King James I of England.

Jay’s Treaty: A treaty between the U.S. and Great Britain which averted war, solved many issues left over from the Revolution, and opened ten years of largely peaceful trade in the midst of the French Revolutionary Wars. The treaty was negotiated by U.S. diplomat John Jay, signed in November 1794, ratified and put into effect in 1795.

Jazz Age: the period between the end of World War I and the beginning of the Depression during which jazz became popular.

Jim Crow Laws: laws in Southern states in the nineteenth and twentieth century’s that forced the segregation of races.

Jingoism: Extreme nationalism often characterized by an aggressive foreign policy, accompanied by an eagerness to wage war.

Judicial branch: The court systems of local, state, and federal governments, responsible for interpreting the laws. These courts try criminal cases (in which a law may have been violated) or civil cases (disputes between parties over rights or responsibilities). The courts attempt to resolve conflicts impartially in order to protect the individual rights guaranteed by the Constitution.

Judicial review: a constitutional doctrine that gives to a court system the power to annul legislative or executive acts which the judges declare to be unconstitutional.

Judiciary Act (1789): In the Judiciary Act of 1789, the First Congress provided the detailed organization of a federal judiciary that the Constitution had sketched only in general terms. Acting on its constitutional authority to establish inferior courts, the Congress instituted a three-tiered judiciary.


Kansas-Nebraska Act: the act of Congress in 1854 annulling the Missouri Compromise, providing for the organization of the territories of Kansas and Nebraska, and permitting these territories self-determination on the question of slavery.

Kellogg-Briand Pact: a treaty renouncing war as an instrument of national policy and urging peaceful means for the settlement of international disputes, originally signed in 1928 by 15 nations, later joined by 49 others.

Kentucky Resolution: Resolution passed by the state of Kentucky 1798 which nullified the Alien and Sedition Acts passed by the U.S. Government, referring to them as unconstitutional acts. It was written by Thomas Jefferson.

Know-Nothing Party: a former political party in the United States; active in the 1800s to keep power out of the hands of immigrants and Roman Catholics.

Ku Klux Klan: secret society first formed in the South during Reconstruction to ensure white supremacy over blacks; re-formed in 1920s to express opposition to Jews, Catholics, Bolsheviks, and others considered “un-American.


Laissez-Faire Capitalism: An economic and political system characterized by a free market for goods and services and private control of production and consumption. There is no government involvement.

League of Nations: An international organization established after World War I under the provisions of the Treaty of Versailles. The League, the forerunner of the United Nations, brought about much international cooperation on health, labor problems, refugee affairs, and the like. It was too weak, however, to prevent the great powers from going to war in 1939.

Legislative branch: The branch of the federal and state government empowered to make the laws. The legislative branch consists of Congress and the fifty state legislatures. At both state and federal levels, legislatures are made up of popularly elected representatives, who propose laws that are sensitive to the needs and interests of their local constituents.

Lend Lease Act: the name of the program under which the United States of America supplied the United Kingdom, the Soviet Union, China, France and other Allied nations with vast amounts of war materiel between 1941 and 1945.

Limited government: government which its functions and powers are prescribed, limited, and restricted by law.

Lincoln/Douglas Debate: Abraham Lincoln was a relative unknown at the beginning of the debates in 1858 as they ran for a Senate seat from Illinois. In contrast to Stephen Douglas’ Popular Sovereignty stance, Lincoln stated that the US could not survive as half-slave and half-free states. The Lincoln-Douglas debates drew the attention of the entire nation.

Literacy Test: test of potential voter’s ability to read and write; once used in several states to prevent African Americans and other minorities from voting; outlawed by the 24th Amendment.

Little Rock Crisis (1957): nine black students were denied admission to a white public school. They were only admitted after President Eisenhower called in the National Guard.

Little Rock Nine: a group of African American students who were enrolled in Little Rock Central High School in 1957. They began the movement toward integration of schools in the South.

Louisiana Purchase: In 1803, President Thomas Jefferson arranged to purchase 530 million acres of land in central North America from the French leader Napoleon for $15 million. Jefferson used his presidential powers to make a treaty in order to legitimize this transaction.

Loyalists/Tories: persons who supported the British cause in the American Revolution.


Magna Carta: A document granting rights to both the Church in England and the Nobility signed by King John in 1215. This is considered to be the beginnings of British democracy.

“Mainstreaming” (in education): refers to the practice of educating students with special needs in regular classes during specific time periods based on their skills. This means regular education classes are combined with special education classes.

Manhattan Project: The code name for the effort to develop atomic bombs for the United States during WWII.

Manifest Destiny: It was used by people who believed that the United States was destined — by God, some said — to expand across North America to the Pacific Ocean. The idea of manifest destiny was used to justify the acquisition of Oregon and large parts of the Southwest, including California.

March on Washington, D.C. (1963): many civil rights groups convened at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. to show support for President Kennedy’s Civil Rights bill. Here Martin Luther King Jr. gave his “I have a dream” speech.

Marshall Plan: the primary program, 1948–51, of the United States for rebuilding and creating a stronger economic foundation for the countries of Western Europe, and repelling the threat of internal communism after World War II.

Mass Consumption: the desire to purchase goods and services at a great amount. It occurred during the 1920’s as many new consumer products became available like the automobile.

Mayflower Compact: an agreement to establish a government, entered into by the Pilgrims in the cabin of the Mayflower on November 11, 1620. The document bound them to live in a civil society according to their own laws.

Melting Pot: the idea that different immigrant groups in the United States will lose their old identities and that a new American identity will emerge from the blending of cultures.

Mercantilism: The policy of building a nation’s wealth by exporting more goods than it imports. Colonies are instrumental in this policy as they supply their parent nations with raw materials that are used to produce finished goods, and then exported back to the colonies. Colonies not only served as a source for the raw materials, but also as an exclusive market for the parent country.

Mexican American War: A war fought between the United States and Mexico from 1846 to 1848. The United States won the war, encouraged by the feelings of many Americans that the country was accomplishing its Manifest Destiny of expansion. Mexico renounced all claims to Texas north of the Rio Grande and yielded a vast territory that embraces the present states of California, Nevada, and Utah, and parts of Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, and Wyoming.

Mid-Atlantic Region: A region of the east coast of the United States generally including Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, Virginia, West Virginia, and North Carolina.

Middle Passage: the part of the Atlantic Ocean between the west coast of Africa and the West Indies: the longest part of the journey formerly made by slave ships.

Midwest: A region of the north-central United States around the Great Lakes and the upper Mississippi Valley. It is generally considered to include Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, and Nebraska. The area is known for its rich farmlands and highly industrialized centers.

Migrant Workers: persons who move from place to place to get work, especially a farm laborer who harvests crops seasonally.

Monopoly: The exclusive control by one company of a service or product.

Montgomery Bus Boycott (1955): the blacks of Montgomery, Alabama, decided that they would boycott the city buses until they could sit anywhere they wanted, instead of being relegated to the back when a white boarded. It lasted over a year and resulted in the desegregation of busses.

Muckrakers: early twentieth-century American journalist who tried to improve society by exposing political corruption, health hazards, and other social problems.

Munich Agreement (1938): An agreement between Britain and Germany in 1938, under which Germany was allowed to extend its territory into parts of Czechoslovakia in which German-speaking peoples lived. Prime Minister Neville Chamberlin negotiated on behalf of Britain, and Chancellor Adolf Hitler on behalf of Germany.


NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement): An agreement between the United States, Canada, and Mexico to establish free trade. It took effect in 1994 and is designed to eliminate trade barriers between the three nations by 2009.

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP): An organization that promotes the rights and welfare of black people. The NAACP is the oldest civil rights organization in the United States, founded in 1909. They favored court challenges to segregation.

National Organization for Women (NOW): is the largest feminist organization in the United States. It was founded in 1966 and pushed for legislation guaranteeing equality for women.

National Origins Acts (1924,1929): this law further reduced immigration and biased it in favor of those from northern and western Europe.

Nativist: the policy of favoring the natives of a country over the immigrants.

NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization): an international organization, begun in 1949. The members have pledged to settle disputes among themselves peacefully and to defend one another against outside aggressors (communist nations).

Natural Rights: Concept of John Locke’s that states all people have the right to life, liberty, and property.

Neutrality Acts: laws that were passed by the United States Congress in the 1930s, in response to the growing turmoil in Europe and Asia. They were spurred by the growth in isolationism and non-interventionism in the U.S. following its costly involvement in WWI, and sought to ensure that the US would not become entangled again in foreign conflicts.

New Deal: name given to the programs of Franklin D. Roosevelt.

New Freedom: name given to the programs of President Woodrow Wilson.

New Frontier: A slogan used by President John F. Kennedy to describe his goals and policies. Kennedy maintained that, like the Americans of the frontier in the nineteenth century, Americans of the twentieth century had to rise to new challenges, such as achieving equality of opportunity for all.

“New” Immigration: Immigrants coming to American from 1870 to 1924. Immigrants came from southern and eastern Europe especially Italy, Poland and Russia. Also a large number of Japanese and Chinese immigrants arrived.

New Jersey Plan: a plan proposed at the Constitutional Convention providing for a single legislative house with equal representation for each state.

New England: an area in the Northeast United States, including the states of Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

New Nationalism: plan under which Theodore Roosevelt ran for president in 1912.

New World Order: commonly refers to the post-Cold War era vision in which world affairs would not be dominated by the competition between the two nuclear superpowers; a positive and hopeful vision for the future.

Nisei: a native-born citizen of the United States or Canada whose parents were Japanese immigrants.

Normalcy: a return to how life was prior to WWI.

Northeast: A region of the northeast United States, generally including the New England states, New York, and sometimes Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Northwest: a region of the northwest United States, generally including the states of Washington and Oregon.

Northwest Ordinance (1785): A law passed in 1787 to regulate the settlement of the Northwest Territory, which eventually was divided into several states of the Middle West. The United States was governed under the Articles of Confederation at the time. The Northwest Ordinance organized the territory into townships of thirty-six square miles each and provided for self-government and religious toleration in the territory. Slavery was prohibited.

Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (1963): formal treaty banning nuclear weapons tests in the atmosphere, in outer space, and under water. The treaty was signed in Moscow on Aug. 5, 1963, by the United States, the Soviet Union, and the United Kingdom that banned all test of nuclear weapons except those conducted underground.

Nuremberg Trials: War crime trials held in Nuremburg after World War II to try the surviving Nazis concerning the Holocaust, aggressive war making, mistreatment of prisoners among other things.


Oil Embargo: led by Saudi Arabia, OPEC announced on October 16, 1973, as part of the political strategy that accompanied the Yom Kippur War, that the Arab countries were cutting production and placing an embargo on shipments of crude oil to Western countries, including the U.S.

“Old” Immigration: Immigrants coming to America from northern and western Europe up to 1850, especially Ireland, Germany, and Scandinavia.

Olive Branch Petition: adopted by the Second Continental Congress on July 5 and submitted to King George on July 8, 1775. It was an attempt to assert the rights of the colonists while maintaining their loyalty to the British crown. King George refused to read the petition.

Open Door Policy: policy of the United States that stated China should be open to all nations that which to trade with them. This policy did not include the consent of the Chinese, and was another form of imperialism.

Operation Desert Storm: the United States and its allies defeated Iraq in a ground war that lasted 100 hours in 1991.

Operation Iraqi Freedom: an ongoing military campaign which began on March 20, 2003, with the invasion of Iraq by a multinational force led by troops from the United States and the United Kingdom. Its main goal was to dispose of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein while stabilizing the country.

Original Jurisdiction: the jurisdiction granted a court to try a case in the first instance.

Overproduction: a condition that exists when the supply of a product exceeds the demand for that product.


Per Capita Income: the total national income divided by the number of people in the nation.

Philanthropy: donations of money, property, or work to needy persons, by endowment of institutions of learning and hospitals, and by generosity to other socially useful purposes.

Ping-Pong Diplomacy: the exchange of ping pong players between the United States and People’s Republic of China (PRC) in the 1970s. The event marked a thaw in U.S.–China relations that paved the way to a visit to Beijing by President Richard Nixon.

Plymouth Colony: the colony established in SE Massachusetts by the Pilgrims who were Puritans in 1620. The first group arrived on the Mayflower. They landed at Plymouth Rock, in what is now Massachusetts, and established the colony, with the Mayflower Compact as their governing laws.

Pluralism (Salad Bowl Theory): idea that people of different backgrounds can exist side by side in the United States, maintaining their identities while still contributing to the overall society.

Political Machine: a political organization that controls enough votes to maintain political and administrative control of its community. The rapid growth of cities in the 19th century created huge problems for city governments. Politicians were able to win support by offering favors, including patronage jobs and housing, in exchange for votes. Though machines often helped to restructure city governments to the benefit of their constituents, they just as often resulted in poorer service, corruption, and aggravation of racial or ethnic hostilities.

Poll Tax: A tax required as a qualification for voting. After the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution extended the vote to blacks in 1870, many southern states instituted poll taxes to prevent blacks from voting. The Twenty-fourth Amendment to the Constitution, adopted in 1964, prohibits poll taxes for federal elections.

Popular Sovereignty: a doctrine, held chiefly by the opponents of the abolitionists, that the people living in a territory should be free of federal interference in determining domestic policy, esp. with respect to slavery.

Population Density: the number of people living per unit of an area (e.g. per square mile).

Potato Famine: Beginning in 1845 and lasting for six years, the famine caused over a million men, women and children in Ireland to die and caused another million to flee the country. It began after a fungus began devastating the potato crop.

Preamble: the introductory statement of the U.S. Constitution, setting forth the general principles of American government.

Precedent: A previous ruling by a court that influences subsequent decisions in cases with similar issues.

Propaganda: official government communications to the public that are designed to influence opinion. The information may be true or false, but it is always carefully selected for its political effect.

Prohibition: the period of 1920-1933 when the making and sale of liquor was illegal in the United States.

Protectionism: the theory, practice, or system of fostering or developing domestic industries by protecting them from foreign competition through duties or quotas imposed on importations.

Protective Tariff: A tax placed on imports in order to protect a nation’s businesses from foreign competition. This policy allows a nation to develop until it can compete more equally.

Popular sovereignty: the doctrine that sovereign power is vested in the people and that those chosen to govern, as trustees of such power, must exercise it in conformity with the general will

Proclamation of 1763: issues by England prohibiting colonial settlement west of the Appalachian Mountains. It is issued after the French and Indian War in an attempt to ease the fears of the Native Americans.

Puritans: a member of a group of Protestants that arose in the 16th century within the Church of England, demanding the simplification of doctrine and worship, and greater strictness in religious discipline.


Quartering Act: a law passed by the British Parliament in 1765 that required American colonists to allow British soldiers to stay in their homes.


Radical Republicans: group of Republicans in Congress who wanted to protect the rights of people freed from slavery in the South and keep rich Southern planters from regaining political power (ex confederates).

Recall: a form of petition used by voters to force elected officials out of office.

Recession: A general business slump, less severe than a depression.

Reconstruction: The period after the Civil War in which the states formerly part of the Confederacy were brought back into the United States.

Red Scare: The rounding up and deportation of several hundred immigrants of radical political views by the federal government in 1919 and 1920. This “scare” was caused by fears of subversion by communists in the United States after the Russian Revolution.

Referendum: voters decide whether a given bill or constitutional amendment should be passed.

Reparations: Compensation demanded by a victorious nation from a defeated nation. Reparations can be in the form of goods or money.

Representative Democracy: A system of government where the legislative, judicial, and executive powers are held by directly or indirectly elected officials.

Republic: A form of government in which power is explicitly vested in the people, who in turn exercise their power through elected representatives.

Relative Location: Where a place is compared to another place or about where a place is.

Reserved Powers: powers given to the states and the people.

Robber Baron: a ruthlessly powerful U.S. capitalist or industrialist of the late 19th century considered to have become wealthy by exploiting natural resources, corrupting legislators, or other unethical means.

Roosevelt Corollary: a corollary (1904) to the Monroe Doctrine, asserting that the U.S. might intervene in the affairs of an American republic threatened with seizure or intervention by a European country.

Rosie the Riveter: a representation of the American women who worked in factories during World War II, many of whom worked in the manufacturing plants that produced munitions and materials for the war effort.

Rugged Individualism: The belief that all individuals, or nearly all individuals, can succeed on their own and that government help for people should be minimal. The phrase is often associated with policies of the Republican Party and was widely used by the Republican president Herbert Hoover.


Salutary Neglect: was an undocumented, though long-standing British policy of avoiding strict enforcement of parliamentary laws, meant to keep the American colonies obedient to Great Britain.

Scalawags: a native white Southerner who collaborated with the occupying forces during Reconstruction, often for personal gain.

Scopes Trial: The trial of John Scopes, a high school teacher in Tennessee, for teaching the theory of evolution in violation of state law. The trial was held in 1925, with eminent lawyers on both sides — William Jennings Bryan for the prosecution and Clarence Darrow for the defense. Although Scopes was convicted, he was given a nominal fine, and the outcome was widely seen as a victory for Darrow.

Second Continental Congress: meet after the battles of Lexington and Concord. They established a Continental army and appointed George Washington as commander-in-chief. Also attempted to bring about peace by writing the Olive Branch Petition.

Security Council (UN): a portion of the United Nations containing 15 members, of which five members (United States, China, Russia, Great Britain, France) have veto power over any decision made by the United Nations. The other ten members are elected every two years. There powers include the establishment of peacekeeping operations, the establishment of international sanctions, and the authorization of military action.

Sedition Act: law declared that any treasonable activity, including the publication of “any false, scandalous and malicious writing,” was a high misdemeanor, punishable by fine and imprisonment.

Segregation: The policy and practice of imposing the separation of races. In the United States, the policy of segregation denied African-Americans their civil rights and provided inferior facilities and services for them.

Selective Service Act (WWI): passed in May 1917, an act that established the draft and eventually led to all males between the ages of 18-45 registering. It was challenged in the Supreme Court and upheld.

Selective Service Act (WWII): required men between the ages of 21 and 35 register with local draft boards. Later, when the U.S. entered World War II, all men aged 18 to 45 were made liable for military service. It passed in 1940 and is the first peacetime draft in American history.

Self-Determination: the freedom of a people to form their government, without reference to the wishes of any other nation, especially by people of a territory or former colony

Separation of Powers: is the political doctrine which the executive, legislative and judicial branches of government are kept distinct (separate), to prevent abuse of power.

Shays’ Rebellion: uprising in western Massachusetts in 1786-87 led by Daniel Shays. It was a rebellion against new taxes that had to be paid in gold. The farmers couldn’t pay the debt and as a result many of them lost their land. They forced closed courts and attacked a federal arsenal. It was eventually suppressed but demonstrated the weakness of the Articles of Confederation.

Social Darwinism: A theory arising in the late nineteenth century that the laws of evolution, which Charles Darwin had observed in nature, also apply to society. Social Darwinists argued that social progress resulted from conflicts in which the fittest or best adapted individuals, or entire societies, would prevail. It gave rise to the slogan “survival of the fittest.”

Sons of Liberty: Secret organization of American colonists formed initially to protest the Stamp Act. The idea found success in many colonies, after the initial organizations in Boston and New York. Supported American independence.

Southeast: A region of the southeast United States generally including Alabama, Georgia, South Carolina, and Florida.

Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC): founded by Martin Luther King Jr. to encourage nonviolent passive resistance; organized black Christian churches.

Southwest: A region of the southwest United States generally including New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, California, and Nevada and sometimes Utah and Colorado.

Space Race: a heated competition between the United States and the Soviet Union, as each side tried to match or better the other’s accomplishments in exploring outer space.

Speculation: investment involving high risk but also the possibility of high profits.

Spheres of Influence: any area in which one nation wields dominant power over another or others.

Spoils System: A practice instituted by Andrew Jackson in which appointed offices were used as rewards for faithful members of the successful political party in an election; also known as the patronage system. This practice would be replaced by civil service reform when the Pendleton Act was passed by Congress in 1883.

Sputnik: the first man-made satellite to orbit the earth created by the Soviet Union.

Square Deal: name given to the numerous programs instituted by Theodore Roosevelt.

Stagflation: An economic phenomenon of the late 1960s and 1970s characterized by sluggish economic growth and high inflation.

Stamp Act: A law passed by the British government in 1765 that required the payment of a tax to Britain on a great variety of papers and documents, including newspapers that were produced in the American colonies. Special stamps were to be attached to the papers and documents as proof that the tax had been paid.

Standard of Living: A term describing the amount of goods and services that an average family or individual views as necessary.

START Agreement: Nuclear arms control discussions and agreements between the United States and the USSR (now Russia) that began in the 1980s. It produced agreements in 1991 and 1997 on the reduction rather than the elimination of nuclear arsenals.

Star Wars: a U.S. weapons research program begun in 1984 to explore technologies, including ground- and space-based lasers, for destroying attacking missiles and warheads.

Strict (tight) interpretation: the belief that the federal government only has the ability to do those things specifically outlined in the Constitution.

Strike: A concerted refusal by employees in a particular business or industry to work. Its goal is usually to force employers to meet demands respecting wages and other working conditions.

Suffrage: the right to vote.

Sugar Act: a law passed by the British Parliament in 1764 raising duties on foreign refined sugar imported by the colonies so as to give British sugar growers in the West Indies a monopoly on the colonial market.

Sun-Belt: the southern states stretching from Florida to California.

Supply-Side Economics: economic theory that stresses the costs of production as a means of stimulating the economy; advocates policies that raise capital and labor output by increasing the incentive to produce.

Supreme Court: A federal court; the highest body in the judicial branch. The Supreme Court is composed of a chief justice and eight associate justices, all of whom are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate.

Sweatshops: A small factory or shop in which employees are poorly paid and work under adverse conditions. Sweatshops were especially common in the garment industry during the early twentieth century.

Swing State: is a state in which no candidate has overwhelming support, meaning that any of the major candidates has a reasonable chance of winning the state’s electoral college votes.


Taft-Hartley Act: Federal legislation that amended the National Labor Relations Act of 1935 to include a definition of unfair labor practices, grant individual employees the right to sue union or company officials for unfair labor practices, restrict closed shops and prohibit secondary boycotts.

Taliban: A fundamentalist Muslim movement whose militia took control of much of Afghanistan from early 1995 and in 1996 took Kabul and set up a radical Islamic state.

Tariff of Abominations: An 1828 tariff [tax on imports] on manufactured goods, which was bitterly contested by the South, and ultimately nullified by South Carolina, leading to the federal showdown known as the Force Bill Crisis.

Temperance Movement: an organized effort to encourage moderation in the consumption of intoxicating liquors or press for complete abstinence.

Tenement: a run-down and often overcrowded apartment house especially in a poor section of a large city. During the late 1800 and early 1900’s these dwelling were inhabited by immigrants.

Thirteenth Amendment: Constitutional amendment that abolished slavery in the United States.

Three-Fifths compromise: a compromise between Southern and Northern states reached during the Constitutional Convention of 1787 in which three-fifths of the population of slaves would be counted. They would count for both the distribution of taxes and the appointment of the members of the U.S. House of Representatives.

Totalitarian: An ideology where all social, economic, and political powers are centered in the government completely.

Trade Imbalance: IT is the difference between the monetary value of exports and imports of output in an economy over a certain period. A trade surplus is you export more than you import and a trade deficit is you import more than you export.

Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo: is the peace treaty between the U.S. and Mexico that ended the Mexican American War (1846-48) (1846–48). It gave the United States the Rio Grande boundary for Texas, and gave the U.S. ownership of California, and a large area comprising New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada, Utah, and parts of Wyoming and Colorado.

Treaty of Paris of 1783: Treaty that officially ended the Revolutionary War on September 3, 1783. It was signed in Paris by Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, and John Jay. Under the terms of the treaty, Britain recognized the independent nation of the United States of America and they removed all of their troops from the new nation.

Treaty of Versailles: the treaty imposed on Germany by the Allied powers in 1920 after the end of World War I which demanded exorbitant reparations from the Germans

Triangular Trade: A catch all phrase for the trade occurring between Europe, Africa, and the Americas. Trade goods include raw materials from the Americas, manufactured goods from Europe, and slaves from Africa.

“Trickle Down” Economics: the policy of providing tax cuts or other benefits to businesses in the belief that this will indirectly benefit the broad population.

Truman Doctrine: President Truman’s policy of providing economic and military aid to any country threatened by communism or totalitarian ideology after WWII.

Trust-busting: breaking up of some or all trusts.


Under-consumption: a condition that exists when demand for a product falls short of the supply of the product.

Underground Railroad: a system for helping fugitive slaves to escape into Canada or other places of safety.

United Nations: an organization of independent states formed in 1945 to promote international peace and security.

Unwritten constitution: a combination of executive and legislative actions and interoperations and judicial decisions, especially judicial review, as well as customs and traditions such as development of political parties.


Veto: the power or right vested in one branch of a government to cancel or postpone the decisions, enactments, etc., of another branch, esp. the right of a president, governor, or other chief executive to reject bills passed by the legislature.

Virginia Plan: a plan proposed at the Constitutional Convention providing for a legislature of two houses with proportional representation in each house and executive and judicial branches to be chosen by the legislature.

Virginia Resolution: Resolution passed by the state of Virginia 1798 which nullified the Alien and Sedition Acts passed by the U.S. Government, referring to them as unconstitutional acts. It was written by James Madison.

Voting Rights Act of 1965: ended literacy test, allowed federal examiners to register voters in areas suspected of denying the right to vote, and the Attorney General was instructed to action against states using poll taxes.


War Powers Act: a United States Congress joint resolution providing that the President can send U.S. armed forces into action abroad only by authorization of Congress or if the United States is already under attack or serious threat.

Warsaw Pact: a military alliance of communist nations in Eastern Europe. It was organized in 1955 in answer to NATO.

Watergate Scandal: a White House political scandal that came to light during the 1972 presidential campaign, growing out of a break-in at the Democratic party headquarters at the Watergate apartment-office complex in Washington, D.C., and, after Congressional hearings, culminating in the resignation of President Nixon in 1974.

The Wealth of Nations: book written by the Scottish economist Adam Smith in 1776. He argues that free market economies are more productive and beneficial to their societies.

WRA Camps: hastily constructed military-style barracks ringed with barbed wire and guarded by troops. More than 100,000 Japanese Americans were forced to live in these camps after President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066.


XYZ Affair: in 1797 when three French diplomats, who President John Adams only referred to as X,Y and Z, demanded bribes, a $250,000 loan from the U.S. and an apology for anti-French comments made by Adams just for the chance to talk with the leaders of France; the three-person U.S. diplomatic team decline.


Yellow Dog Contracts: a contract between a worker and an employer in which, as a condition of employment, the worker agrees not to remain in or join a union.

“Yellow Peril”: refers to the immigration of Chinese to the western United States during the late 1800s. It was believed the mass migration of these immigrants to America threatened white wages and standards of living.


John Peter Zenger: 1697–1746, American journalist, printer, and publisher, born in Germany: his libel trial and eventual acquittal (1735) set a precedent for establishing freedom of the press in America.