Unit 3 - Key Terms
Alexander Hamilton — strong nationalist, first secretary of the treasury; he supported a strong central government and was founder of the Federalist Party.
Alien and Sedition Acts — series of acts designed to suppress perceived French agents working against American neutrality; the acts gave the president power to deport “dangerous” aliens, lengthen the residency requirement for citizenship, and restrict freedoms of speech and press.
Anti-Federalists — persons who opposed ratification of the U.S. Constitution by the states; in general, they feared the concentration of power the Constitution would place in the national government.
Battle of Saratoga — a turning point of the Revolution in October 1777, when an army of 6,000 British soldiers surrendered in New York; the battle resulted from a British attempt to divide the colonies through the Hudson River Valley. The American victory convinced the French to ally with the colonies and assured the ultimate success of independence.
Battle of Yorktown — a siege that ended in October 1781 when Washington trapped 8,000 British soldiers on a peninsula in Virginia after a British campaign in the southern colonies; this defeat caused the British to cease large-scale fighting in America and to start negotiations, which eventually led to the colonies’ independence.
Ben Franklin — America’s leading diplomat of the time who served as a statesman and advisor throughout the Revolutionary era. He was active in all the prerevolutionary congresses and helped to secure the French alliance of 1778 and the Treaty of Paris, which formally ended the Revolution in 1783.
Boston Massacre — confrontation between British soldiers and Boston citizens in March 1770. The troops shot and killed five colonials. American radicals used the event to roil relations between England and the colonies over the next five years.
Coercive Acts (1774) — British actions to punish Massachusetts for the Boston Tea Party; they included closing the port of Boston, revoking Massachusetts’s charter, trying all British colonial officials accused of misdeeds outside the colony, and housing British troops in private dwellings. In the colonies, these laws were known as the Intolerable Acts, and they brought on the First Continental Congress in 1774.
Democratic Republican Party — political party led by Thomas Jefferson; it feared centralized political power, supported states’ rights, opposed Hamilton’s financial plan, and supported ties to France. It was heavily influenced by agrarian interests in the southern states.
Farewell Address — presidential message in which Washington warned the nation to avoid both entangling foreign alliances and domestic “factions“ (political parties); the ideas of the address became the basis of isolationist arguments for the next 150 years.
Federalist Papers — eighty-five essays written by Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and John Jay and published in newspapers to convince New York to ratify the Constitution; taken together, they are seen as a treatise on the foundations of the Constitution.
Federalist Party — political party led by Alexander Hamilton; it favored a strong central government, commercial interests, Hamilton’s financial plan, and close ties to England. Its membership was strongest among the merchant class and property owners.
Federalists — persons who favored ratification of the U.S. Constitution by the states; they are not to be confused with the later Federalist Party.
George Washington — commander of the colonial army; while not a military genius, his integrity and judgment kept the army together. Ultimately, he was indispensable to the colonial cause.
John Jay — lead diplomat in negotiating the Treaty of Paris (1783); he secretly dealt with the British representatives at Paris and gained all of America’s goals for independence despite the deviousness and meddling of France and Spain.
John Locke — English philosopher who wrote that governments have a duty to protect people’s life, liberty, and property; many colonial leaders read his ideas and incorporated them into their political rhetoric and thinking.
James Madison — strong nationalist who organized the Annapolis Convention, authored the Virginia Plan for the Constitution, and drafted the constitutional amendments that became the Bill of Rights; he was also a founding member of the Democratic Republican Party.
Jay’s Treaty (1794) — agreement that provided England would evacuate a series of forts in U.S. territory along the Great Lakes; in return, the United States agreed to pay pre-Revolutionary War debts owed to Britain. The British also partially opened the West Indies to American shipping. The treaty was barely ratified in the face of strong Republican opposition.
Loyalists (Tories) — colonists who remained loyal to England; they often were older, better educated people who were members of the Anglican Church. The British hoped to use them as a pacification force but failed to organize them properly.
Loose constructionist — person who believes that the “elastic clause“ of the Constitution (Article 1, Section 8, paragraph 18) gives the central government wide latitude of action; loose constructionists hold that even powers not explicitly set forth in the Constitution may be exercised if it is “necessary and proper“ to carry out powers that are specifically stated.
New Jersey Plan — offered by William Paterson to counter the Virginia Plan; it favored a one-house of Congress with equal representation for each state. It maintained much of the Articles of Confederation but strengthened the government’s power to tax and regulate commerce.
Northwest Ordinance (1787) — the major success of Congress under the Articles of Confederation that organized the Northwest Territory for future statehood; the law provided territorial status for a region when its population reached 5,000. At 60,000, the territory could petition for statehood with the same rights as existing states. It set into law the procedure for expanding the nation that eventually led to the admission of many other new states. Also, by outlawing slavery in the Northwest Territory, it represented the first action by the national government against that institution.
Patrick Henry — an early advocate of independence who was a strong opponent of the Stamp Act and great defender of individual rights; in 1775, he declared: “Give me liberty, or give me death.”
Salutary neglect — British policy before 1763 of generally leaving the colonies alone to conduct their own internal affairs; the abandonment of this policy after 1763 was a major factor leading to revolution and independence.
Samuel Adams — agitator and leader of the Sons of Liberty, who supported independence as soon as the British veered from salutary neglect; he was the primary leader of the Boston Tea Party and later a delegate to the Continental Congress.
Seven Years War — fought between England and France, 1756–1763; known as the French and Indian War in the colonies, it started in 1754, over control of the Ohio River Valley and resulted in France’s withdrawal from North America. It was the impetus for Parliament’s taxing policy that led to the American Revolution.
Shays’s Rebellion — an uprising in western Massachusetts between August 1786 and February 1787 that closed the courts and threatened revolution in the state; the central government’s inability to suppress the revolt reinforced the belief that the Articles of Confederation needed to be strengthened or abandoned.
Sons of Liberty — street gangs that formed during the Stamp Act crisis to enforce the boycotts and prevent the distribution and sale of the tax stamps; they were the vanguard of the Revolution as they intimidated British officials with violence.
Stamp Act (1765) — a tax on more than fifty items such as pamphlets, newspapers, playing cards, and dice; it set off a strong protest among the colonists, who claimed it was an internal tax designed only to raise revenue and therefore unlawful for Parliament to levy.
Stamp Act Congress (1765) — met in New York City to protest the Stamp Act; nine of the thirteen colonies petitioned the king and organized a boycott that eventually helped to force the repeal of the tax. This meeting and action was a major step to colonial unity and resistance of British authority.
Strict constructionist — person who interprets the Constitution very narrowly; a strict constructionist believes that a power not explicitly stated in the Constitution could not be exercised by government. Historically, strict constructionists have hoped to restrict authority of the central government and preserve states’ rights.
Sugar Act (1764) — designed to raise revenue by stiffening the Molasses Act (1733), establishing new customs regulations, and trying smugglers in British vice-admiralty courts; this was the first attempt to tax the colonies in order to raise revenue rather than regulate trade. It actually lowered the tax on imported sugar in hopes of discouraging smugglers and thereby increasing collection of the tax.
Thomas Jefferson — lead author of the Declaration of Independence; in it, he explained the colonists’ philosophy of government and the reasons for independence. He wrote that governments that did not protect unalienable rights should be changed; first secretary of state, who led opposition to the Hamilton/Washington plan to centralize power at the expense of the states; after founding the Democratic Republican Party to oppose these plans, Jefferson was elected vice president in 1796 and president in 1800.
Thomas Paine — writer of Common Sense, an electrifying pamphlet of January 1776 calling for a break with England; written with great passion and force, it swept the colonies and provided a clear rationale for colonial independence.
Three-Fifths Compromise — agreement at the Constitutional Convention that broke the impasse over taxation and representation in the House of Representatives; the delegates agreed to count slaves as three-fifths of a person for both. This formula had been used in 1783 to make financial assessments among the states under the Articles.
Townshend Acts (1767) — levied taxes on imported items such as paper, glass, and tea; these taxes were designed to address colonial resistance to “internal taxation“ like the Stamp Act, which had no connection to trade and was intended only to raise revenue. However, the colonials viewed the Townshend Acts as revenue-raising measures and refused to pay these taxes as well.
Virginia Plan — Edmund Randolph’s and James Madison’s proposal for a new government that would give Congress increased taxing and legislative power; it called for two houses of Congress—an elected lower house and an upper house appointed by the lower house. Because seats in Congress would be apportioned according to the states’ populations, this plan was favored by the large states.
Whiskey Rebellion — uprising in western Pennsylvania in 1794 over an excise tax levied on whiskey; farmers saw the tax as an unjust and illegal levy, like the Stamp Act. President Washington crushed the rebellion with overwhelming force and thereby demonstrated the power of the new government to maintain order and carry out the law.