Archive for May, 2009

Presidencies that were major turning points

Washington- (1789-1797) established the first cabinet offices of treasury (Hamilton), war (Knox), and state (Jefferson), and later included attorney general (Randolph); the Judiciary Act of 1789 created the Supreme Court and lower federal courts; the first treaties with foreign powers under the Constitution- Jay’s Treaty of 1794 with Britain was considered ineffectual, although the Pinckney treaty of 1795 with Spain opened up the Mississippi as a trade route and allowed the tax free right of deposit of American goods in New Orleans; Washington’s crushing of the Whiskey Rebellion in Pennsylvania in 1794; the unfortunate development of political parties around the personalities of Hamilton and Jefferson; the Neutrality Proclamation which guided US foreign relations for over a century; establishing the (then unofficial) precedent of two terms that would be maintained until FDR.

Jefferson (1801-1809)- sought to reduce the size of government and the use of excise taxes; the Louisiana Purchase doubled US territory and furthered Jefferson’s dream of creating an “Empire for Liberty” rooted in self-sufficient yeoman farmers even while he questioned the constitutionality of the action according to strict interpretation of the Constitution; sent out Lewis and Clark to explore that territory, gather scientific information, and make friendly overtures to the Native Americans there; was challenged by piracy off the north-central coast of Africa in the Barbary states and was forced to pay tribute since our navy was too small to protect the merchant fleet; tried to avoid war with France or England or be sucked into the war between them by declaring an embargo of trade on bth sides that had the effect of promoting manufacturing.

Jackson (1829- 1836)- Known as Jacksonian Democracy or the Era of the Common Man, the right to vote was extended to nearly all white males, removing property restrictions that became meaningless due to westward expansion; the Indian Removal Act sought to clear the south and southwest of the Five Civilized Tribes, resulting in th Trail of Tears; as the representative of the people, he vetoed more bills than all of the previous presidents put together; supported “rotation in office,” or the spoils system to reward political supporters with government jobs; killed the Bank of the US as a bastion of privilege and wealth, which in the long term led to the collapse of hundreds of banks as speculation ran wild causing the depression or panic of 1837; advocated a policy of states’ rights until South Carolina threatened secession over the Tariff of 1828. The Age of Reform and the Second Great Awakening began during Jackson’s presidency.

Lincoln (1861-1865)- directed the response of the federal government to the secession of the Confederate States; defined the Civil War as a war over the principles outlined in the Declaration of Independence (see Gettysburg Address); ended slavery; established a plan for Reconstruction; first federal draft law; first federal income tax; establishment of  a national bank to regulate currency.

Wilson (1912-1919)- addition of four (Progressive) amendments to the Constitution (16- income tax, 17-direct election of Senators, 18-Prohibition, 19-woman suffrage); Clayton Act strengthening anti-trust legislation and exempting unions from that legislation; creation of Federal Reserve System; lowering tariffs; intervention in World War I; development of Fourteen Points based upon self-determination, freedom of the seas, and creating a world body to settle disputes among nations, although the US did not join this body.

FDR (1933-1945)- New Deal intervention in economy based on relief, reform, and recovery; two amendments to the Constitution (20- changing start of terms for federal elective offices, 21- ending Prohibition); deficit spending under Keynesian economic theory to prime the pump of the economy; Social Security; supplying the Allies with weaponry and then joining the fight in World War II; dramatically altered the size and scope of government and citizens; expectations of what the federal government’s role was; ended isolationism as a foreign policy option.

Truman (1945- 1953)-  continuation of New Deal philosophy in Fair Deal; desegregation of the US military and federal government;  created Committee on Civil Rights; 22nd Amendment passed limiting presidential terms to two; involvement in Korean War; containment; development of atomic and nuclear weapons; Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe; Truman Doctrine attempts to contain communism and prevent spread to Greece and Turkey; massive peacetime military spending; Berlin airlift in response to Soviet blockade; creation of NATO.

LBJ (1963-1968)- Civil Rights Act of 1964 ends segregation in public accommodations; Voting Rights Act  forbids literacy tests and enforcement of 15th Amendment; War on Poverty includes development of Appalachia and Economic Opportunity Act creating Job Corps; creation of Medicare and Medicaid; Elementary and secondary Education Act increases federal spending in schools; increasing involvement in Vietnam; Tonkin Gulf Resolution expands presidential war powers.

Reagan (1981-1989)- Reagan Revolution was a high tide of conservatism with the New Right, neoconservatives, and the Moral Majority becoming powerful; remaking the American electorate through drawing support of “Reagan Democrats;” supply-side economics includes tax breaks and deregulation of economy; nomination of first woman to Supreme Court; passage of balanced budget act but large deficits; cuts in domestic social program spending; massive military spending and program expansion; Iran-contra scandal; strong anti-communism in Latin America and Caribbean (El Salvador, Nicaragua, Granada); pushing Soviet Union near collapse and end of Cold War.

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Common Latin terms for US history review

From the Constitution and law:

pro tempore- “for the time being;” when the vice president is not present, the majority leader of the Senate or some other designated person shall serve as president pro tempore of the Senate.

habeas corpus– “you have the body;” a right to be released after arrest. A person cannot generally be held for more than 24-48 hours without being formally charged before a judge. Someone who believes that they are being held illegally can get a lawyer to petition a judge for a writ of habeas corpus, which forces authorities to present the prisoner before the judge. A writ of habeas corpus can also be used to appeal convictions. This privilege of habeas corpus has been suspended at various times in US history, such as during the Civil War and the War on Terror.

ex post facto– “from a thing done afterward” or “after the fact;” if a law is passed, it cannot be applied retroactively–a person cannot be charged for actions taken before those actions were illegal.

posse comitatus– “force of the country;” a sheriff’s right to force citizens into a group to help enforce laws. The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 was passed in the wake of Reconstruction and forbade the use of the federal military to maintain order on US soil (this does not apply to the National Guard since they are actually under the command of the governor of the state in which the unit residdes).

E Pluribus Unum– “From many, one;” the motto of the United States of America, meaning from many people has been created one nationality.

Novus Ordo Seclorum– “A New Order for the Ages;” motto of the Great Seal of the United States. It means “A New World Order.” Look on the back of your dollar bills.

prima facie– “at first sight;” evidence that is suggestive but not conclusive– at first sight it seems relevant.

pro bono– “for the good;” someone who volunteers their services for free.

quorum– “of whom;” the minimum number of members (of Congress, in our discussion) that must be present to conduct business.

stare decisis– “let the decision stand;” the habit of following legal precedent.

Ex parte– “on the part of” taking only one side of an argument.

amicus curiae– “friend of the court;” a third party who is allowed to submit a legal opinion before the Supreme Court even though they are not a party to the original suit.

sub poena– “under punishment”- an order for someone to appear before a court.

affidavit– “he asserted;” a sworn statement used in court.

In re– “in the case of;” a court case in which there may not be opposing parties.

in loco parentis– “in the place of a parent;” teachers and schools are assumed legally to have assumed some parental responsibility and authority.

nolo contendere– “I do not wish to contend;” used when one enters a plea of “no contest” to charges. It means that you do not plead either guilty or not guilty, but you admit the evidence is against you.

veto– “I forbid;” a power given to the chief executive of a country or a state to stop the passage of a law.

vice– “in place of;” an assistant who serves in the place of their superior, as in vice president or vice admiral.

in absentia– “in the absence of;” a trial that is held without the accused present is being held in absentia.

Other terms:

Magna Carta– “Great Charter;” a set of documents that is generally viewed as limiting royal power in England and establishing the basis for the “rights of Englishmen” such as trial by jury.

ante bellum– “before the war.” Often used to refer to the time period of 1848-1860 in US history.

status quo– “remains the same” or “as it is;” leave everything as it is.

status quo ante bellum– “remains the same as before the war;” used in peace treaties such as the Treaty of Ghent which ended the War of 1812. It means that neither side will benefit from the war, for instance in gaining territory.

vox populi– “the voice of the people,” or “the people have spoken;” an acclamation by the majority.

ergo– “therefore.” See below.

ipso facto– “by that very fact;” another way to say “therefore” or ergo.

omnibus– “everywhere;” an omnibus bill is one that seems to have all kids of stuff just crammed into it.

pro forma– “as a matter of form;” going through the motions, following procedure unquestioningly.

e.g. (exempli gratia)- “for the sake of example;” a fancy way of saying “for example. See i.e.

i.e. (id est)– “that is;” another way to say “for example.”

et al. (et alia)- “and others.”

A.D. (Anno domini)– “the year of our Lord;” used in dates which occurred after the point at which it is believed that Jesus was born. In attempting to avoid use of religious standards in measuring dates, many today prefer to use CE (for “of the common era”) in place of AD after dates.

circa– “around (the time of);” the approximate date.

extant– “still in existence;” a law which is still on the books.

quid pro quo– “this for that;” you scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours; do this for me and I’ll do this for you.

de facto– “in fact;” something that happens through tradition or habit. When discussing segregation, we talked about de facto segregation as that which happens through happenstance or habit rather than that which is legally mandated.

de jure (or de iure)- “based in law;” something legally mandated or established. We used this term in conjunction with the term “segregation.” De jure segregation is legally mandated segregation such as under Jim Crow laws.

alibi– “elsewhere;” an excuse used to deflect blame or suspicion.

ad infinitem– “to infinity;” a fancy way to say “and so on” it is related to…

et cetera– “and so on;” see above. It is abbreviated etc., NOT “ect.”- it’s a pet peeve of mine…

casus belli– “the cause of war;” um, the cause of a war.

ad hoc– “to this” or “for this;” something improvised or created only for a specific situation.

alias– “otherwise;” a pseudonym or false name.

pseudonym– “false name;” see alias.

per annum– “annually;” something that happens each year.

per capita– “for the head;” for each person.

per diem– “for the day;” usually a payment paid by the day, usually for travel expenses.

non sequitur– “it does not follow;” an illogical conclusion.

pater familias– “father of the family;” the head of an extended family, who had supreme power even in the matter of life and death of the members of this family, like in the movie The Godfather.

persona non grata– “person not grata;” a person not wanted or welcome, someone you don’t want to see.

Pater Patriae– “the Father of the Country;” Founding Father, like George Washington.

sic– “this;” also used to note that a misspelled word is in the original copy being quoted.

Terra Nova– “new land;” or “New World;” the labels on maps for North and South America after the voyages of Columbus, et al.

verbatim– “word for word;” literally.

veritas– “truth.”

via– “way;” by way of. Also Latin for a road.

For fun…

non compos mentis– “not in control of the mind;” crazy. How you feel after you finish the AP exam.

Sic Semper Tyrannis– “thus always to tyrants;” the motto of the state of Virginia, and what John Wilkes Booth supposedly shouted after he shot Abraham Lincoln in the head.

Semper Fidelis– “always faithful;” the motto of the United States Marine Corps, sometimes shortened to “Semper Fi!”

magnum opus– “great work;” someone’s masterpiece.

Mea Culpa– “my fault;” or, as you might say, “My bad.”

caveat emptor– “let the buyer beware;” don’t buy something unless you have inspected it. It generally means “think before acting.”

Sic Transit Gloria– “How fleeting is glory!” Enjoy your fame while it lasts, Britney.

cum laude– “with praise.”

veni vidi vici– “I came , I saw, I conquered;” Caesar is reported to have said this implying that his victories were easily accomplished.

terra firma– “solid ground;” on dry land after a long voyage.

Et tu, Brute?– “You also, Brutus?” the vernacular would be “Dude, I thought you were my friend, but you just stabbed me in the back!” Literally.

Cum grano salus– “with a grain of salt.” Be skeptical of this claim.

rigor mortis– “stiffness of death;” this increases based on the length of time after death and the temperature of the surrounding area.

sui generis– “of its own kind;” in a class of its own– unique.

sum quod sum– “I am what I am;” what Popeye the Sailor Man always sang about himself.

Cogito ergo sum– “I think, therefore I am;” Descartes declared this.

Sunt pueri pueri– “Children are children;” kids will be kids.