Alien and Sedition
Acts The Alien and Sedition Acts were a pair of laws passed
under the Adams Administration to draw attention away from the
XYZ Affair. All criticism and dissent against the sitting government were
outlawed, forcing opponents to air their objections anonymously.
These measures sparked Jefferson into publishing the Kentucky
Resolutions under an assumed name.
Anglican Church The Anglican Church was organized under King Henry
VIII in 1534 after the Roman Catholic Church failed to grant him
a divorce from his wife Catherine of Aragon. As the official religion
of England, Anglicanism quickly gained a prominent place within
the Protestant hierarchy, and continued to exercise its influence
in the American colonies. Today, the Episcopalian Church functions
as the American wing of the Anglican Church.
Anti-Federalist An Anti-Federalist was opposed to the strong centralized government
structure provided under the Constitution. Such a thinker would
have supported a looser organization of political power, as detailed
by the Articles of Confederation (See
the Articles of Confederation SparkNote).
Articles of Confederation The Articles of Confederation laid out the plan for
the loose system of government originally assumed by the United
States from 1781 to 1789, before the Constitution officially replaced
it as the fundamental document of political organization. (See
the Articles of Confederation SparkNote)
Assumption Plan The Assumption Plan, arrived at by Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton
in 1791, was an arrangement that provided for the federal government
to forgive all outstanding state debts in exchange for the relocation
of the government seat from Philadelphia to its present site in
Bank of the United States The Bank of the United States was a centralized federal institution
devoted to the control of the national economy. Originally conceived
by Alexander Hamilton, it fell in and out of favor in the ensuing
decades, supported by advocates of strong government and decried
by those who valued local and state rights. The fiercest opponent
of the National Bank was Andrew Jackson, who waged a savage war
against it during the 1830s. Eventually, the necessity of federal
involvement in financial affairs was conceded as a given, and today
the Federal Reserve Board wields unsurpassed power over the world
Barbary States The Barbary States are the present-day countries of
Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya. Barbary, which in Latin
means "foreign," designated the nature of this territory in relation
to the Roman Empire, and the name has stuck. As Islamic powers with
control of the southern Mediterranean coast, the Barbary States
were able to exact exorbitant tributes from American and European
seafarers during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries,
before they lost their sovereignty to the extended reach of colonization.
Bill of Rights The Bill of Rights is the name given to the first ten
amendments to the Constitution, passed as a group in 1791. These
amendments outline the basic rights of all American citizens, including
the freedom of speech and the right to bear arms. (See
the Constitution SparkNote)
College of William and Mary The College of William and Mary, founded in 1693 at Williamsburg,
Virginia, is the second oldest institution of higher learning in
Constitution The Constitution is the basis of the American system
of government, outlining the demarcation between federal and state
power, and enumerating the several powers of the legislative, executive
and judiciary branches. Further, a Bill of Rights and several
successive amendments have served to refine the direction of government.
Upon being ratified in 1788, the Constitution replaced a more
weakly organized system of government as outlined under the Articles
of Confederation. (See
the Constitution SparkNote)
Party The Democratic-Republican Party, organized under Thomas Jefferson
during the 1790s, initially stood in opposition to the consolidating
principles of the Federalist party. Composed of many old-time
Anti-Federalists, the Democratic-Republicans were initially suspicious
of the powers of the Constitution and believed in the necessity
of strict construction. Upon gaining executive power under Jefferson
in 1801, the party began to suffer from an identity crisis, as
they were forced to serve in capacities that they fundamentally
opposed. Over time, the Democratic-Republicans effectively became
the sole party in the United States, enjoying over two decades
of federal power under the presidencies of Jefferson, James Madison,
and James Monroe. Correspondingly, their first principles became muddled,
and they suffered a partition in the 1820s, out of which an entirely
new political organization occurred.
Disestablishment Disestablishment, spurred by Jefferson in the late
1770s, was the means by which the Anglican Church lost its position
as the official and exclusive state religion in the Commonwealth
East India Company The East India Company was a mercantile venture in
the Asian subcontinent that did much to fuel the overall success
of the British empire. First established in the seventeenth century,
its progress gave rise to corresponding initiatives in far-flung corners
of the globe, and its rise and fall were closely linked with British
successes in other colonial ventures.
Enlightenment The Enlightenment was an intellectual movement that
began in Europe during the seventeenth century, and stressed the
values of humanism and rationality over divine principles.
Entail Entail, a long-standing institution in British law,
outlined a codified inheritance pattern within an immediate family structure
rather than allowing the deceased to disperse property according
to preference via an itemized will. Jefferson attacked and dismantled
the institution of entail in the late 1770s.
Essex Junto The Essex Junto was a group of New England secessionists
that congealed in opposition to the Embargo Act during Jefferson's Second
Federalist Party The Federalist Party came together in the 1790s under
the leadership of Alexander Hamilton. Supporters of a strong central
government and the loose construction of the Constitution, they
advanced the powers of the federal government under the executive
leadership of Presidents George Washington and John Adams. Upon
losing executive power to Jefferson and the Democratic-Republicans
in 1801, the Federalists watched as the new establishment proceeded
to subsume many of their ideals and positions, gradually extinguishing
the cause of Federalism into a distant memory.
House of Burgesses The House of Burgesses was a legislative body established
in 1619, for the purpose of granting a measure of autonomy to colonists
in the Commonwealth of Virginia. It was overseen by a royal governor
and ultimately subject to the power of Parliament and the British
Impeachment Impeachment is an official measure of censure against
a government official, followed by an investigation that may or may
not lead to removal from office.
Impressment Impressment was the method by which the British navy
would forcibly remove deserters from American merchant ships and return
them to service under command of the crown. American sailors were
also frequently subject to such belligerence.
Review Judicial review, established in 1803 per the terms
of Chief Justice John Marshall s Marbury v. Madison decision,
set the precedent whereby the judiciary reserved the right to declare
legislative measures unconstitutional and therefore void.
Kentucky Resolutions The Kentucky Resolutions, authored anonymously by Jefferson in
1799 out of opposition to the Alien and Sedition Acts, advanced
states rights and outlined the compact and nullification theories
Louisiana Territory The Louisiana Territory, a vast tract of land between
the Mississippi River and the Rocky Mountains, was claimed for France
in the seventeenth century. In the eighteenth century it was held
briefly by Spain. During this period many Europeans settled amongst
the several native tribes who previously occupied the land. Since
1803, the Louisiana Territory has belonged to the United States,
and presently makes up over one-third of the country's total land
Mandamus Mandamus is a right of authority by a supreme court
over a lower court. In the United States, such a right was initially established
by the Judiciary Act of 1789, but later repealed by Chief Justice
John Marshall in the Marbury v. Madison decision of
Massachusetts Bay Company The Massachusetts Bay Company was a mercantile enterprise chartered
by a group of English entrepreneurs in 1629 to establish a firmer
second foothold along the Atlantic seaboard, in competition with
the existing enterprise in Virginia.
System The mercantile system is an arrangement by which an
imperial power strips raw materials and profits from a colony,
providing manufactured goods for sale in return. Thus, a system
of dependency and exploitation is developed, fueling globalization through
industrialization. Far from merely a seventeenth-century phenomenon,
mercantilism, in altered form, is alive and well today.
Monticello Monticello, meaning "hillock," or "little mountain,"
in Italian, was the longtime homestead of Thomas Jefferson, built
on the family estate at Shadwell in present-day Albermarle County, Virginia.
Construction and renovation on Monticello occurred throughout
Jefferson's lifetime, and today the building and grounds stand
as a testament to his architectural and agricultural vision. Monticello
was auctioned off upon Jefferson's death in 1826, and today is
privately maintained as a national attraction by a private foundation.
Parliament Parliament is the legislative governing body of the
British Empire. First established in the thirteenth century, Parliament gradually
increased its power through various reforms. After the English
Civil War and the Glorious Revolution of the seventeenth century,
the Parliament became the fundamental unit of government in the
British system, and today enjoys considerable authority over the
monarchy, which persists as an icon more than a governing power.
Poplar Forest Poplar Forest was Jefferson's second home in Virginia,
a country retreat with an octagon house located in Bedford County,
ninety miles from Monticello.
Primogeniture Primogeniture, a long-standing institution in British
law, outlined a codified inheritance pattern whereby the eldest
son inherited all lands and means from the deceased patriarch.
Jefferson attacked and dismantled the institution of primogeniture
in the late 1770s.
Shadwell Shadwell was the Jefferson family estate, originally
secured and developed by Jefferson's father, Peter Jefferson.
After the Shadwell house burned down in 1770, Jefferson proceeded
with the construction of Monticello, which would come to replace Shadwell
as the Jefferson family homestead.
Tuckahoe Tuckahoe was the Randolph family homestead, where the Jefferson
family lived for a brief time during the 1740s. Jefferson spent
his early childhood years at Tuckahoe, and received his first schooling
Unitarianism Unitarianism was a reform movement that grew out of
the early New England Congregationalist Church. The most conspicuous aspect
of their doctrine is a denial of Jesus' humanity, a view that causes
many to cast them beyond the pale of Christianity. Today the Unitarians
have merged with the Universalists, and exist primarily in California
and New England.
University of Virginia The University of Virginia, founded by Jefferson, was
chartered in 1819 and first opened its doors in 1825. With its
main campus in Charlottesville, the University remains a prime
example of Jefferson's neoclassical architectural vision.
Virginia Assembly The Virginia Assembly coalesced in the dissolution
of the House of Burgesses, functioning as the commonwealth's first completely
autonomous legislature. From its initial formation in the early
days of the Revolutionary War, the Virginia Assembly has been a
bastion of states rights and a benchmark of state government in
Virginia Company The Virginia Company was chartered in 1606 by King
James I and VI of England and Scotland as a colonial venture along
the Atlantic seaboard. Despite gradual economic progress, widespread
casualties led to the loss of the charter in 1624 and the eventual
dissolution of the company in 1630.
Virginia Resolutions The Virginia Resolutions, authored anonymously by James Madison
in 1799 out of opposition to the Alien and Sedition Acts, were
a milder rebuke to the federal government than Jefferson's caustic
The Barbary Wars were a series of conflicts fought with
various North African principalities, chiefly Algiers and Tripoli.
Jefferson initiated an American offensive in 1801 after tribute demands
from the Muslim suzerains grew outlandish. Fighting ensued for
several years, and never reached a conclusive endpoint.
Battle of Bunker Hill
The Battle of Bunker Hill, fought June 17, 1775, was
a violent triumph for the British over rebellious colonials at
Charlestown, Massachusetts. Despite their success, the British
were unable to take control of the port of Boston, and the Revolutionary
War suddenly became more than a brief flare-up confined to the Atlantic
Battles of Lexington and Concord
The Battles of Lexington and Concord were the first conflicts
of the Revolutionary War, fought April 19, 1775 just to the northwest
of Boston. A surprise triumph for rebel colonials led to increased
confidence in the cause of secession, providing a renewed sense
of purpose at the Second Continental Congress, which began in Philadelphia
a few weeks later.
The Berlin Decree, issued by Napoleon on November 21,
1806, established a blockade of all British ports. However, in
the initial months of this system, the shipping interests of neutral
nations such as the United States were left alone, allowing the
American economy to prosper and sparking the resentment of Parliament.
Tensions between the three nations bubbled over one year later,
when France, Britain and the United States passed strong trade measures–the
Milan Decree, the Orders in Council, and the Embargo Act, respectively–in
Bloody Kansas was the term given to the widespread violent conflict
that arose in the Kansas Territory during the 1850s as a result
of Stephen Douglas' principle of popular sovereignty, established
via the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854.
Boston Port Act
The Boston Port Act, one of the so-called Intolerable
Acts passed by Parliament in 1774, resolved to close the Port of
Boston until the East India Company was compensated for tea destroyed during
the Boston Tea Party. It was met with stiff opposition throughout
The Civil War, fought between 1861 and 1865, was a battle
to determine the fate of slavery and union in America. Under the stern
leadership of Abraham Lincoln, union was eventually preserved,
and slavery was abolished per the Thirteenth Amendment. (See
the Civil War SparkNote)
First Continental Congress
The First Continental Congress was held at Philadelphia
in 1774. An attempt to bring cohesion to colonial dissent, it
was followed by the more radical Second Continental Congress, which
began the following year.
The Second Continental Congress was held at Philadelphia
in 1775-76, and took a radical turn upon the news of conflict between
British and colonial forces at the Battles of Lexington and Concord.
Eventually, the Second Continental Congress culminated in a Declaration
of Independence and the establishment of a sovereign national government.
Declaration of Independence
The Declaration of Independence, initiated by a call
to national sovereignty by Richard Henry Lee, was drafted by Jefferson
in June of 1776. Approved after a lengthy debate by the Second Continental
Congress on July 4, the Declaration was later signed by President
John Hancock and fifty-five other delegates to the congress. (See
the Declaration of Independence SparkNote)
The Embargo Act, passed December 22, 1807, forbade all import/export
trade between the United States and foreign nations. It was a
stronger re-formulation of the existing Non-Importation Act, and
was passed in response to the Berlin and Milan Decrees of Napoleon
and Parliament's Orders in Council. Because it was essentially
unenforceable, the Embargo Act was an out-and-out failure from
both an economic and political standpoint, and was repealed upon
the inauguration of James Madison on March 4, 1809.
English Civil War
The English Civil War, fought from 1642 to 1648, was
a battle between royalist supporters and a radical wing of Parliament under
the leadership of Oliver Cromwell. Ultimately, the sitting monarch,
King Charles I, was deposed and beheaded, and Cromwell ruled over
the newly established Commonwealth for nearly a decade. The monarchy
was restored in 1660, but Parliament had permanently strengthened
its role within the English government.
The French Revolution was a major political reorganization
that began in 1789 with the storming of the Bastille and the rise
of the Third Estate, the mass of common people who had been oppressed
for centuries under the authoritarian rule of an absolute monarchy.
The sitting monarch, Louis XVI, was deposed, imprisoned and eventually
beheaded in the political chaos known as the Reign of Terror that
eventually led to the rise of Napoleon as an emperor every bit
as powerful as the monarchs who had come before him. ( See
the French Revolution SparkNote)
The Glorious Revolution occurred in 1688, when King William III
and Queen Mary II usurped the English throne from King James II.
In exchange for this turnabout, King William III agreed to function
as a limited monarch, further increasing the growing power of Parliament.
The Intolerable Acts were so-called by the rebellious
colonials who reacted harshly against a series of measures passed
by Parliament in 1774 as a response to the Boston Tea Party, including
the Boston Port Act and the Quebec Act.
The Louisiana Purchase, accomplished in 1803, was a sale
of the Louisiana Territory from France to the United States for
a sum of $15 million. Although the Louisiana Purchase raised several thorny
issues of constitutional interpretation, it was ultimately approved
by Congress, thus initiating the rapid growth of an American Empire
in the Western Hemisphere.
Marbury V. Madison
The Marbury v. Madison decision, issued
by Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall on March 3, 1803,
overturned the Judiciary Act of 1789. In so doing, the decision
established the principal of judicial review, greatly expanding
the role of the judiciary within the federal government structure.
The Milan Decree, formally issued in December 1807, was
the result of a long- standing promise by Napoleon to enforce the content
of his Berlin Decree. This aggressive foreign policy led to the
corresponding passage of the Orders in Council by Britain and the
Embargo Act by the United States.
The Missouri Compromise of 1820 was engineered by Henry Clay.
It allowed for the entry of Missouri to the Union as a slave state,
largely in exchange for the creation of a demarcation line categorically
prohibiting the extension slavery north of Missouri's southern
border. This legislation was later repealed by Stephen Douglas
s Kansas-Nebraska Act and Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger Taney's Dred
The Monroe Doctrine, published during President Monroe's second
administration on December 2, 1823, called for an end to European
intervention in the Western Hemisphere. It was largely the brainchild
of then-Secretary of State John Quincy Adams. Although virtually
unenforceable at the time it was issued, the United States later
continued to expand its imperial domain in the Western Hemisphere
with perceived justification via the Monroe Doctrine.
The Non-Importation Act had its foundations in the colonial protests
that occurred in reaction to the Stamp Act and Townshend Acts.
During Jefferson's second administration, a Non-Importation Act
was proposed and passed but immediately suspended. Eventually,
the Embargo Act filled its function, only to be repealed upon the
inauguration of James Madison. At this point, a Non-Intercourse
Act directed toward Britain and France was passed. Eventually,
these tensions over trade boiled over into the War of 1812.
Orders in Council
The Orders in Council, passed in November of 1807, functioned as
Parliament's response to Napoleon's Berlin Decree. As a countermeasure
to the French blockade of British ports, the British resolved to
blockade French ports, and to hold American shipping interests
to the same degree of surveillance that British ships suffered
under the watch of the French. This usurpation of American sovereignty
led to the issue of the Embargo Act, and laid another portion of
hostile foundation creating the conditions for the War of 1812.
Panic of 1819
The Panic of 1819 was a financial catastrophe brought
about by injudicious budgeting in the midst of the War of 1812.
It was the first of several major panics that hobbled the volatile
American economy in the nineteenth century.
The Quebec Act of 1774, classed as one of the Intolerable
Acts by the American colonials who reacted against it, extended
the borders of the Quebec territory well into the Great Lakes region.
This land, which was also simultaneously claimed by the Commonwealths
of Massachusetts and Virginia as well as several native tribes,
was the focus of intermittent fighting throughout the Revolutionary
War, eventually reverting to the control of the newly- established
The Revolutionary War was fought between 1775 and 1782, beginning
with the first shots fired at the Battles of Lexington and Concord
and ending with Lord Cornwallis' surrender to George Washington
at Yorktown, Virginia. In the initial fighting, British forces
overwhelmed the inexperienced and undermanned colonial rebels.
However, significant military assistance from French forces on
land and at sea eventually helped ensure an American victory.
Various secessionist plots sprung up during Jefferson's presidential
administrations. Two regions proved especially vulnerable: the
newly-acquired Louisiana Territory, which was briefly captivated
by the master plan of Aaron Burr, and New England, which under
lingering Federalist influence formed a rebellious faction known
as the Essex Junto in objection to the woefully ineffective Embargo
Act. Later, during the War of 1812, the idea of secession briefly
resurfaced in New England. Ultimately, none of the plots amounted
to a serious threat.
Seven Years War
The Seven Years War was fought between 1755 and 1763,
and involved a complicated web of alliances and adversaries in European
and American theaters. The fighting that occurred in the American
theater is often referred to as the French and Indian War. The
big winners in the event were the British and the Prussians, who
increased their claims in North America and Northern Europe, respectively.
As a result of the 1763 Treaty of Paris that ended the war, the
Floridas passed from Spanish to British control. As compensation,
the French transferred control of the Louisiana Territory to Spain.
The Stamp Act was passed in 1765 by Parliament in an
attempt to raise revenue for the flagging British economy. Via
this measure, a taxed stamp was required on various documents and printed
materials traded in the colonies. It was met with fierce opposition,
and repealed in the following year.
The Tea Act was the lone Townshend Act to remain in place
after Lord North repealed the several others in 1770. By continuing
to levy a tax on tea, Parliament symbolically indicated its continuing
authority over the American colonies while at the same time attempting
to revive the fortunes of the floundering East India Company.
Such manipulation was met with fervent hostility, and led indirectly
to the start of the Revolutionary War.
The Townshend Acts were passed by Parliament in 1767,
shortly after the repeal of the Stamp Act. The Townshend Acts
placed duties on several import/export goods, including glass,
lead, paint, paper, and tea.
First Virginia Convention
The First Virginia Convention was held in 1774 as a nominating prelude
to the First Continental Congress, held at Philadelphia later that
same year. Held in Williamsburg, the First Virginia Convention
was the occasion at which Jefferson published his Summary
View on the Rights of British America.
Second Virginia Convention
The Second Virginia Convention was held in 1775 as a nominating
prelude to the Second Continental Congress. Moved from Williamsburg
inland to Richmond, this convention was more radical in character
than the First Virginia Convention, and served as a fitting political
capstone to the tense period leading up to the Battles of Lexington
War of 1812
The War of 1812 was fought between the United States
and Great Britain over control of international commerce on the high
seas. After a lengthy campaign, the United States emerged victorious,
producing in the process a new set of war heroes including Andrew
Jackson and Winfield Scott.
The Whiskey Rebellion was a 1794 uprising in protest
of taxes imposed under the financial regime of Secretary of Treasury Alexander
Hamilton. The rebellion was summarily squashed by troops sent
in under orders from President Washington.
The XYZ Affair was an aborted bribery scheme involving
France and the United States, in which French minister Charles
Maurice de Talleyrand suggested to American ministers Elbridge
Gerry, John Marshall and Charles Pinckney that an exorbitant tribute sum
be paid in advance of diplomatic negotiations between the two nations.
The resulting political flap, which caused significant turmoil
for the administration of President John Adams, resulted in the
passage of the Alien and Sedition Acts.