U-Z
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22.6 U-Z
 
U-Z
U
U-boat
German submarines in World War I. German U-boat attacks against French and British passenger ships carrying American citizens provoked outrage among the American public, strengthening calls for the U.S. to join the war against the Central Powers.
Uncle Tom’s Cabin
Written by Harriet Beecher Stow and published in 1852. Uncle Tom’s Cabin portrayed the evils of the institution of slavery. The novel sold 1.2 million copies in two years and reached millions more through dramatic adaptations. Uncle Tom’s Cabin aroused sympathy for runaway slaves among all classes of Northerners and hardened many against the South’s insistence upon continuing slavery.
Underground Railroad
A network of safe houses and escorts established by Northern abolitionists to foil enforcement of the Fugitive Slave Act. The Underground Railroad helped escaped slaves reach freedom in the North and in Canada.
Underwood Tariff
Pushed through Congress by President Wilson in 1913. The Underwood Tariff reduced average tariff duties by almost 15 percent, and established a graduated income tax to cover the lost tariff revenue.
Union
A general term for the United States during the Civil War. “Union” also referred to the Northern army.
United Nations
A group of 51 countries founded the United Nations on October 24, 1945. Its central mission is to preserve peace and global stability through international cooperation and collective security. Today, the UN claims around 191 countries as members.
United Negro Improvement Association (UNIA)
Brought from Jamaica to the U.S. in 1916 by Marcus Garvey. The UNIA urged economic cooperation among African Americans.
Unrestricted submarine warfare
The German U-boat policy in which submarines attacked any ship—military, merchant, or civilian—without warning. After a period in which Germany practiced limited submarine warfare as promised by the Sussex Pledge, the resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare in January 1917 pushed the U.S. even closer to entering World War I.
Utopian communities
Small, experimental communities that sprang up in the U.S. beginning in the late 1820s. In these communities, reformers attempted to build perfect societies and present models for other communities to emulate. Most of these communities collapsed by the late 1840s.
V
Martin Van Buren
President from 1837 to 1841. Beset by the panic of 1837 and unable to win over Jackson’s opposition, the Whigs, Van Buren lost his bid for reelection in 1840.
Vietcong
A pro-communist guerrilla force working secretly within South Vietnam.
Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions
Written in 1798 by James Madison and Thomas Jefferson. The Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions condemned the Federalists’ broad interpretation of the Constitution and instead put forth a compact theory of the Union, which stated that states’ rights superseded federal powers. Virginia and Kentucky endorsed these resolutions in opposition to the Alien and Sedition Acts. The arguments outlined in these resolutions would resurface in the mid-nineteenth century in the political crises involving tariff issues and slavery—issues that divided the North and South and led to the Civil War.
Virginia Plan
The first major proposal presented to the Constitutional Convention concerning congressional representation. The Virginia Plan proposed the creation of a bicameral legislature with representation in both houses proportional to population. The plan favored the large states, which would have a much greater voice than the small states under this plan. In opposition, the small states proposed the New Jersey Plan. The two sides eventually found common ground in the Connecticut Compromise.
Virginia Resolves
In response to the 1765 Stamp Act, Patrick Henry persuaded the Virginia House of Burgesses to adopt several strongly worded resolutions that denied Parliament’s right to tax the colonies. Known as the Virginia Resolves, these resolutions persuaded many other colonial legislatures to adopt similar positions.
Virtual representation
Held that the members of Parliament not only represented their specific geographic constituencies but also took into consideration the well-being of all British subjects when deliberating on legislation. Prime Minister George Grenville invoked the concept to explain why Parliament could legally tax the colonists even though the colonists could not elect any members of Parliament.
Voting Rights Act
Passed in 1965. The Voting Rights Act guaranteed all Americans the right to vote and allowed the federal government to intervene in elections in order to ensure that minorities could vote.
W
Wade-Davis Bill
Passed in July 1864. The Wade-Davis Bill set forth stringent requirements for Confederate states’ readmission to the Union. President Lincoln, who supported a more liberal Reconstruction policy, vetoed the Wade-Davis Bill by leaving it unsigned more than ten days after the adjournment of Congress.
Wagner Act
See the National Labor Relations Act.
War of 1812
Fought between the U.S. and Great Britain from 1812–14. Although it ended in stalemate with the Treaty of Ghent, the American public believed the U.S. had won the war after news spread of General Andrew Jackson’s decisive victory at the Battle of New Orleans, which occurred two weeks after the signing of the treaty. For years following this apparent victory, an ebullient spirit of nationalism and optimism pervaded America.
War Hawks
A group of westerners and southerners, led by John Calhoun and Henry Clay, who pushed for war against Britain. The War Hawks objected to Britain’s hostile policies against U.S. ships, including impressment and the seizure of shipping goods, and advocated fighting instead of submitting to such treatment. They also hoped that through war, the U.S. would win western, southwestern, and Canadian territories.
War Production Board
Created in 1942. The War Production Board oversaw the production of the thousands of planes, tanks, artillery pieces, and munitions that FDR requested once the U.S. entered the war. The board allocated scarce resources and shifted domestic production from civilian to military goods.
Earl Warren
Chief justice of the Supreme Court from 1953 to 1969. Warren’s liberal court made a number of important decisions, primarily in the realm of civil rights, including Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka in 1954.
Warsaw Pact
Signed in 1954 between the USSR and its Eastern European satellites—Albania, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Hungary, Poland, and Romania. The Warsaw Pact allowed the stationing of Soviet troops in each participating country. It was seen as the Soviet response to the formation of NATO.
George Washington
First president of the United States. Commander in chief of the Continental Army during the American Revolution, Washington led the Continentals to victory. He defined the role of the president by setting precedents—Washington intervened little in legislative affairs and concentrated mostly on diplomacy and finance. A Federalist, he supported Alexander Hamilton’s economic campaign. Washington officially resigned from office in 1796 after serving two terms in office, establishing an unofficial policy that presidents serve no more than two terms in office.
Booker T. Washington
An African American leader and the first principal of the Tuskegee Institute (1881). Washington adopted a moderate approach to addressing racism and segregation, urging his fellow African Americans to learn vocational skills and strive for gradual improvements in their social, political, and economic status.
Watergate
The name of a hotel in Washington, D.C. that has come to signify one of the greatest scandals in American history. On June 17, 1972, burglars broke into Democratic National Committee headquarters in the Watergate hotel to wiretap the phones. It was later discovered that these burglars had been employed by Nixon’s Committee to Re-elect the President (CREEP). In the ensuing investigation, it became clear that Nixon had known of the break-in and had participated in a cover-up attempt. Faced with near-certain impeachment, Nixon resigned the presidency on August 9, 1974.
Daniel Webster
One of the country’s leading statesmen in the first half of the nineteenth century. Webster was a Federalist lawyer from New Hampshire who won, most notably, the Dartmouth College v. Woodward (1819) and McCulloch v. Maryland (1819) Supreme Court cases. First elected to Congress in 1822, he became a powerful defender of northern interests, supporting the 1828 tariff and objecting to nullification. Webster opposed many of President Jackson’s policies and became a leader of the Whig Party. He was instrumental in negotiating the Compromise of 1850.
Whigs
During the Revolutionary War, the Whigs were colonists who supported the move for independence. In the mid-1830s, the Whigs arose in opposition to President Jackson. The party consisted of the core of the National Republican Party as well as some Northern Democrats who had defected in protest against Jackson’s strong-armed leadership style and policies. The Whigs promoted protective tariffs, federal funding for internal improvements, and other measures that strengthened the central government. Reaching its height of popularity in the 1830s, the party disappeared from the national political scene by the 1850s, when its Northern and Southern factions irrevocably split over the slavery issue.
Whiskey Rebellion
A July 1794 riot that broke out in western Pennsylvania in response to a high excise tax on whiskey initiated by Alexander Hamilton. In a show of national strength, President George Washington led a force of militiamen to crush the rebellion.
Walt Whitman
A writer and a disciple of transcendentalist Ralph Waldo Emerson. Whitman’s major work, Leaves of Grass (1855), celebrated America’s diversity and democracy.
Roger Williams
A dissenter who clashed with Massachusetts Puritans over the issue of separation of church and state. After being banished from Massachusetts in 1636, he traveled south, where he founded a colony in Rhode Island that granted full religious freedom to its inhabitants.
Wilmot Proviso
Proposed in 1846 before the end of the Mexican War. The Wilmot Proviso stipulated that slavery be prohibited in any territory the U.S. gained from Mexico in the upcoming negotiations. The proviso passed in the House of Representatives due to strong support from the North, but stalled in the Senate.
Woodrow Wilson
Democrat, president from 1913 to 1921. An enthusiastic reformer, Wilson supported measures to limit corporate power, protect laborers, and aid poor farmers. In foreign relations, he advocated the principles of “new freedom,” encouraging democracy and capitalism worldwide. During the early years of World War I, Wilson struggled to preserve American neutrality. Once the U.S. entered the war, he charged ahead aggressively. Wilson’s key contributions to the war, beyond providing American forces, were the elucidation of his Fourteen Points and his advocacy of the League of Nations.
John Winthrop
Governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony. Winthrop was instrumental in forming the colony’s government and shaping its legislative policy. He envisioned the colony, centered in present-day Boston, as a “city upon a hill” from which Puritans would spread religious righteousness throughout the world.
Woman’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU)
Founded in 1874. The WCTU worked alongside the Anti-Saloon League to push for prohibition. Notable activists included Susan B. Anthony and Frances Elizabeth Willard.
Women’s Strike for Equality
In August 1970, tens of thousands of women around the country held demonstrations to demand the right to equal employment and legal abortions. This coordinated effort was known as the Women’s Strike for Equality.
Worcester v. Georgia
Chief Justice John Marshall ruled in 1832 that the Cherokee tribe comprised a “domestic dependent nation” within Georgia and thus deserved protection from harassment—in this case, from forced migration out of Georgia. Known to be vehemently racist against Indians and eager to secure Native American land for U.S. settlement, Andrew Jackson refused to abide by the decision, reportedly sneering, “John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it.” The Cherokee removal continued on unabated and as aggressively as ever.
Works Progress Administration (WPA)
Much of the $5 billion allocated to FDR by the Emergency Relief Allocation Act of 1935 went to the creation of the WPA. Over eight years, the WPA provided work for the unemployed of all backgrounds, from industrial engineers to authors and artists. Partially owing to WPA efforts, unemployment fell by over 5 percent between 1935 and 1937.
Writs of assistance
Legalized by Parliament during the French and Indian War. Writs of assistance were general search warrants that allowed British customs officers to search any colonial building or ship that they believed might contain smuggled goods, even without probable cause for suspicion. The colonists considered the writs to be a grave infringement upon their personal liberties.
X
Malcolm X
A major advocate of Black Power who helped lead the Nation of Islam to national prominence. In 1965, Malcolm X was assassinated after a well-publicized break with the Nation of Islam over his newfound dedication to cross-cultural unity.
XYZ affair
In response to continued French aggression at sea, John Adams sent a diplomatic envoy to France to negotiate for peace in 1797. Charles de Talleyrand, the French foreign minister, refused to meet with the U.S. delegation and instead sent three anonymous agents, X, Y, and Z, to try to extort over $12 million from the Americans in exchange for negotiation rights. This widely publicized attempt at extortion aroused public outrage among the American people, some of whom called for war.
Y
Yalta Conference
A meeting between the Big Three (FDR, Churchill, and Stalin) from February 4 to February 11, 1945. Although FDR and Churchill’s bargaining power with Stalin was severely hindered by the presence of Soviet troops in Poland and Eastern Europe, Stalin did agree to declare war on Japan soon after Germany surrendered. Plans for a United Nations conference in April 1945 were also approved.
Yellow journalism
The exaggerated and sensationalized stories about Spanish military atrocities against Cuban rebels that the New York World and New York Journal, among other newspapers, published in the period leading up to the Spanish-American War (1898). Yellow journalism swayed American public opinion in favor of war against Spain.
Boris Yeltsin
President of the Russian Republic in 1991, when hard-line Communists attempted to overthrow Mikhail Gorbachev. After helping to repel these hard-liners, Yeltsin and the leaders of the other Soviet republics declared an end to the USSR, forcing Gorbachev to resign. Yeltsin played an increasingly important role in global politics thereafter.
Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA)
Organization that attempted to alleviate some of the struggles of the poor by providing young people with affordable shelter and recreational facilities. Founded in America in 1851.
Z
Zimmerman Telegram
A telegram sent in 1917 from the German foreign minister to the German ambassador in Mexico. The telegram was intercepted by British intelligence, and revealed Germany’s plans to urge Mexico to enter the war against the U.S. in exchange for a pledge to help restore Mexico’s former territories of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. The unmasking of Germany’s aggressive war plans, coupled with Germany’s resumption of unrestricted submarine warfare, pushed the U.S. into World War I.
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