Unit 5 - Key Terms
Abraham Lincoln — president of the United States, 1861–1865; he is generally rated among America’s greatest presidents for his leadership in restoring the Union. Lincoln was assassinated April 14, 1865, by John Wilkes Booth before he could implement his Reconstruction program.
Andrew Johnson — vice president who took over after Lincoln’s assassination; an ex-Democrat with little sympathy for former slaves, his battles with Radical Republicans resulted in his impeachment in 1868. He avoided conviction and removal from office by one vote.
Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna — political opportunist and general who served as president of Mexico eleven different times and commanded the Mexican army during the Texas Revolution in the 1830s and the war with the United States in the 1840s.
Border States — Maryland, Delaware, Kentucky, and Missouri; these slave states stayed in the Union and were crucial to Lincoln’s political and military strategy. He feared alienating them with emancipation of slaves and adding them to the Confederate cause.
Carpetbaggers — northerners who went South to participate in Reconstruction governments; although they possessed a variety of motives, southerners often viewed them as opportunistic, poor whites—a carpetbag was cheap luggage—hoping to exploit the South.
Charles Sumner — senator from Massachusetts who was attacked on the floor of the Senate (1856) for antislavery speech; he required three years to recover but returned to the Senate to lead the Radical Republicans and to fight for racial equality. Sumner authored Civil Rights Act of 1875.
Compromise of 1850 — proposal by Henry Clay to settle the debate over slavery in territories gained from the Mexican War; it was shepherded though Congress by Stephen Douglas. Its elements included admitting California as a free state, ending the buying and selling of slaves in the District of Columbia (DC), a more stringent Fugitive Slave Law, postponed decisions about slavery in the New Mexico and Utah Territories, and settlement of the Texas–New Mexico boundary and debt issues.
Compromise of 1877 — agreement that ended the disputed election of 1876 between Rutherford Hayes and Samuel Tilden; under its terms, the South accepted Hayes’s election. In return, the North agreed to remove the last troops from the South, support southern railroads, and accept a southerner into the Cabinet. The Compromise of 1877 is generally considered to mark the end of Reconstruction.
Dred Scott decision (1857) — Chief Justice Roger Taney led a pro-slavery Supreme Court to uphold the extreme southern position on slavery; his ruling held that Scott was not a citizen (nor were any African Americans), that slavery was protected by the Fifth Amendment and could expand into all territories, and that the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional.
Emancipation Proclamation — executive order issued January 1, 1863, granting freedom to all slaves in states that were in rebellion; Lincoln issued it using his constitutional authority as commander-in-chief, as a military measure to weaken the South’s ability to continue the war. It did not affect the Border States or any region under northern control on January 1. However, it was a stepping stone to the Thirteenth Amendment.
Fifteenth Amendment (1870) — granted black males the right to vote and split former abolitionists and women’s rights supporters, who wanted women included as well.
Fourteenth Amendment (1868) — granted citizenship to any person born or naturalized in the United States; this amendment protects citizens from abuses by state governments, and ensures due process and equal protection of the law. It overrode the Dred Scott decision.
Franklin Pierce — northern Democratic president with southern principles, 1853–1857, who signed the Kansas-Nebraska Act and sought sectional harmony above all else.
Free Soil Party — formed from the remnants of the Liberty Party in 1848; adopting a slogan of “free soil, free speech, free labor, and free men,“ it opposed the spread of slavery into territories and supported homesteads, cheap postage, and internal improvements. It ran Martin Van Buren (1848) and John Hale (1852) for president and was absorbed into the Republican Party by 1856.
Freedmen’s Bureau — a U.S. government-sponsored agency that provided food, established schools, and tried to redistribute land to former slaves as part of Radical Reconstruction; it was most effective in education, where it created over 4,000 schools in the South.
Gadsden Purchase (1853) — U.S. acquisition of land south of the Gila River from Mexico for $10 million; the land was needed for a possible transcontinental railroad line through the southern United States. However, the route was never used.
Harriet Beecher Stowe — author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin, a best-selling novel about the cruelty of slavery; often called the greatest propaganda novel in United States history, the book increased tension between sections and helped bring on the Civil War.
James K. Polk — Democratic president from 1845 to 1849; nicknamed “Young Hickory“ because of his close political and personal ties to Andrew Jackson, he pursued an aggressive foreign policy that led to the Mexican War, settlement of the Oregon issue, and the acquisition of the Mexican Cession.
Jefferson Davis — president of the Confederate States of America; a leading southern politician of the 1850s, he believed slavery essential to the South and held that it should expand into the territories without restriction. He served as U.S. senator from Mississippi (1847–1851, 1857–1861) and secretary of war (1853–1857) before becoming president of the Confederate States of America (1861–1865). After the war, he served two years in prison for his role in the rebellion.
John Brown — violent abolitionist who murdered slaveholders in Kansas and Missouri (1856–1858) before his raid at Harpers Ferry (1859), hoping to incite a slave rebellion; he failed and was executed, but his martyrdom by northern abolitionists frightened the South.
Kansas-Nebraska Act (1854) — Stephen Douglas’s bill to open western territories, promote a transcontinental railroad, and boost his presidential ambitions; it divided the Nebraska territory into two territories and used popular sovereignty to decide slavery in the region. Among Douglas’s goals in making this proposal was to populate Kansas in order to make more attractive a proposed route for a transcontinental railroad that ended in Chicago, in his home state of Illinois.
Know-Nothing Party — influential third party of the 1840s; it opposed immigrants, especially Catholics, and supported temperance, a waiting period for citizenship, and literacy tests. Officially the American Party, its more commonly used nickname came from its members’ secrecy and refusal to tell strangers anything about the group. When questioned, they would only reply, “I know nothing.“
Ku Klux Klan — terrorist organization active throughout the South during Reconstruction and after, dedicated to maintaining white supremacy; through violence and intimidation, it tried to stop freedmen from exercising their rights under the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments.
Manifest Destiny — set of ideas used to justify American expansion in the 1840s; weaving together the rhetoric of economic necessity, racial superiority, and national security, the concept implied an inevitability of U.S. continental expansion.
Mexican Cession — region comprising California and all or parts of the states of the present-day American Southwest that Mexico turned over to the United States after the Mexican War.
Popular sovereignty — political process promoted by Lewis Cass, Stephen Douglas, and other northern Democrats whereby, when a territory organized, its residents would vote to decide the future of slavery there; the idea of empowering voters to decide important questions was not new to the 1840s and 1850s or to the slavery issue, however.
Radical Republicans — Republican faction in Congress who demanded immediate emancipation of the slaves at the war’s beginning; after the war, they favored racial equality, voting rights, and land distribution for the former slaves. Lincoln and Johnson opposed their ideas as too extreme.
Republican Party — political party formed in 1854 in response to the Kansas-Nebraska Act; it combined remnants of Whig, Free Soil, and Know-Nothing Parties as well as disgruntled Democrats. Although not abolitionist, it sought to block the spread of slavery in the territories. It also favored tariffs, homesteads, and a transcontinental railroad.
Robert E. Lee — highly regarded Confederate general who was first offered command of the Union armies but declined; Lee was very successful until he fought against Ulysses S. Grant in 1864 and 1865. He surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia to Grant on April 9, 1865, to end major fighting in the war.
Scalawags — white southerners who cooperated with and served in Reconstruction governments; generally eligible to vote, they were usually considered traitors to their states.
Stephen Douglas — a leading Democratic senator in the 1850s; nicknamed the “Little Giant“ for his small size and great political power, he steered the Compromise of 1850 and the Kansas-Nebraska Act through Congress. Although increasingly alienated from the southern wing of his party, he ran against his political rival Abraham Lincoln for president in 1860 and lost.
Tenure of Office Act (1867) — Radical attempt to further diminish Andrew Johnson’s authority by providing that the president could not remove any civilian official without Senate approval; Johnson violated the law by removing Edwin Stanton as secretary of war, and the House of Representatives impeached him over his actions.
Thaddeus Stevens — uncompromising Radical Republican who wanted to revolutionize the South by giving equality to blacks; a leader in the impeachment of Andrew Johnson, he hoped for widespread land distribution to former slaves.
Thirteenth Amendment (1865) — abolished slavery everywhere in the United States.
Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo (1848) — agreement that ended the Mexican War; under its terms Mexico gave up all claims to Texas north of the Rio Grande and ceded California and the Utah and New Mexico territories to the United States. The United States paid Mexico fifteen million dollars for the land, but the land cession amounted to nearly half that nation’s territory.
Ulysses S. Grant — hard-fighting Union general whose relentless pursuit of Robert E. Lee finally brought the war to an end in April 1865; elected president in 1868, he presided over two disappointing and corrupt terms and is considered a failure as president.
William Seward — Lincoln’s secretary of state and previously his chief rival for the Republican nomination in 1860; however, his comments about the Fugitive Slave Law and “irrepressible conflict” made him too controversial for the nomination. As secretary of state, he worked to buy Alaska from Russia.
Wilmot Proviso — measure introduced in Congress in 1846 to prohibit slavery in all territory that might be gained by the Mexican War; southerners blocked its passage in the Senate. Afterward, it became the congressional rallying platform for the antislavery forces in the late 1840s and early 1850s.
Winfield Scott — arguably the finest military figure in America from the War of 1812 to the Civil War; he distinguished himself in the Mexican War, ran unsuccessfully for president (1852), and briefly commanded the Union armies at the beginning of the Civil War.
Zachary Taylor — military hero of Mexican War and the last Whig elected president (1848); his sudden death in July 1850 allowed supporters of the Compromise of 1850 to get the measures through Congress.