a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t u v w x y z

Pacific Railway Act
The 1862 Pacific Railway Act established the pattern for government land grants to railroads. It gave five square miles of public land to railroad construction companies for each mile of track laid. Money earned from sale of the land encouraged railroad construction and provided public services, but that came at the cost of the system's abuse and corruption.

padrone system
The "padrone" system was a contract labor arrangement used for recruiting European immigrants for labor in American industry.

Paine, Thomas
Paine was an English revolutionary pamphleteer who wrote "Common Sense." This best seller rallied Americans to support independence and adopt a republican form of government for the new nation.

The Paleo-Indians were the first human inhabitants of the Americas, who crossed the land bridge from Asia perhaps as long as fifty thousand years ago and survived by hunting large mammals.

Palmer Raids
Attorney General A. Mitchell Palmer, concerned that the United States was in danger of a communist takeover in 1919, ordered a series of roundups and raids on suspected communists. The raids, a product of the postwar Red Scare, clearly violated the civil liberties of many innocent people.

Pan-American Conference
The Pan-American Conference (1889) was a disappointment to Secretary of State James Blaine. He wanted a trade-reciprocity agreement with Latin American nations that would stimulate the marketing of U.S. goods, but the conference merely created a Pan-American Union to promote commercial and cultural exchanges.

Panic of 1819
Between 1819 and 1823 the United States suffered its first nation-wide economic depression. The depression was caused by a fall in cotton prices and the contraction of credit. The Panic led to demands for more democracy in government, hostility toward banks, and a growing split in the Republican party.

Panic of 1837
The Panic of 1837 was in part a consequence of President Jackson's Specie Circular. The Panic passed quickly, but in 1839 falling cotton prices and state defaults on debts frightened investors and a general economic depression began that lasted until 1843.

Panic of 1857
A boom in the American economy ended in the Panic of 1857. When grain prices fell, demand for railroad services and manufactures fell off. The upper Mississippi Valley was hardest hit, but the Panic did not last long and it hardly affected the South at all.

Pan-Indian resistance movement
This movment called for the political and cultural unification of the Indian tribes in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Paris, Treaty of
The 1898 Treaty of Paris ended the Spanish-American War and transferred the Spanish colonies of Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines to the United States while recognizing the independence of Cuba.

Paris, Treaty of
The 1763 Treaty of Paris ended the French and Indian War (Seven Years' War). Its principal feature was France's loss of nearly all of its North American empire, retaining only its West Indian possessions.

Parson's Cause
The Parson's Cause was a series of developments (1758-1763) that began when the Virginia legislature modified the salaries of Anglican clergymen, who complained to the crown and sued to recover damages. British authorities responded by imposing additional restrictions on the legislature. Virginians, who saw this as a threat, reacted by strongly reasserting local autonomy.

The Agricultural Adjustment Act (1933) was designed to give subsidies to farmers in order to lift agricultural prices to "parity" with industrial prices based on the 1909 to 1914 ratio of the two. It meant that the price farmers received for their goods (their income) would pay for as much factory goods as the same amount of income they earned from farm goods paid for factory goods in 1909 to 1914.

party caucus
A party caucus is a meeting of party leaders to decide questions of policy or to select candidates running for office.

patent medicines
Patent medicines were trademarked concoctions, often of little medicinal value, available for purchase without a physician's prescription.

A patriarchal society is one in which family descent is traced through the father's line.

The term patriot usually refers to Americans during the Revolutionary period whose resistance to British measures included a willingness to resort to arms and, ultimately, a commitment to American independence. However, many Loyalists were also patriotic in their allegiance to Great Britain.

Patronage is the power to appoint individuals to government positions.

Patroonship refers to the grant of a vast estate of land in New Netherlands, offered by Dutch authorities as a way to attract settlers. Very few patroonships were actually created.

Patton, George
General Patton was commander of the U.S. Third Army. He conducted successful armored campaigns in North Africa and Western Europe during World War II.

Paul, Alice
Paul was the dynamic radical feminist who led the Women's party's campaign for an equal-rights amendment to the Constitution in the 1920s.

Paxton Boys
The Paxton Boys' uprising was a revolt by western Pennsylvania farmers in 1763. It was triggered by eastern indifference to Indian attacks on the frontier and by the western district's underrepresentation in the Pennsylvania assembly.

Payne-Aldrich Tariff
Although President William Howard Taft personally favored downward revision of U.S. tariffs, he still signed the protectionist Payne-Aldrich tariff bill. His action alienated many congressional progressives from his administration.

payroll tax
The Social Security Act (1935) set up an old-age and unemployment insurance system funded partly by a tax on workers' wages and partly by a tax on payrolls paid by employers.

During World War II, Congress adopted a payroll-deduction system to collect income taxes. Employers withheld workers' taxes from paychecks and turned the money over to the government.

Peace Corps
The Peace Corps was an invention of the Kennedy administration designed to mobilize American idealism and technical skills to help developing nations.

peace dividend
The government funds that many Americans anticipated becoming available through lower defense costs resulting from the decline of world tensions at the end of the Cold War in Europe in 1989 were called the "peace dividend." It failed to materialize.

Peace of Paris, 1783
These treaties signed in 1783 by Great Britain, the United States, France, Spain, and the Netherlands ended the Revolutionary War. The British agreed to extend the colonies their independence and to transfer their trans-Appalachian territories to the new United States. Prewar debts owed by the inhabitants of one country to those of the other were to remain collectible, and Congress was to urge the states to return property confiscated from Loyalists. British troops were to evacuate United States territory without removing slaves or other property. And, in a separate agreement, Britain relinquished its claim to East and West Florida to Spain.

peace without victory
Hoping to mediate a conclusion to World War I before the United States could be dragged in, President Wilson in June 1917 offered terms for a "peace without victory." The terms were similar to what became Wilson's Fourteen Points, and both belligerents ignored them.

peaceful coexistence
In the mid-1950s, Soviet Premier Khrushchev spoke of the possibility of the capitalist and communist systems, the Soviet Union and the United States, living in "peaceful coexistence" with one another.

Peale, Charles William
Peale, an early nineteenth-century artist, helped found the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, and did much to encourage American artists.

Pearl Harbor
Pearl Harbor was the U.S. naval base in Hawaii that was attacked by Japanese forces on December 7, 1941. The surprise attack drew the United States into World War II.

peculiar institution
The term "peculiar institution" was a common reference to southern slavery. Here, the word peculiar means unique or distinctive to the South.

Pell mell
President Thomas Jefferson took an informal approach to the ceremonial responsibilities of his office; a demeanor he thought appropriate to the leader of a republic. At state dinners he ignored protocol and invited his guests to sit wherever there was an empty chair--pell mell.

Pendleton Civil Service Act
The 1883 Pendleton Act brought civil service reform to federal employment, thus limiting the spoils system. It classified many government jobs and required competitive examinations for these positions. It also outlawed forcing political contributions from appointed officials.

Peninsula Campaign
In the spring of 1862, Union general George B. McClellan launched his Civil War campaign with Richmond as its objective; it failed despite superior numbers of federal troops.

Penn, William
Penn was the Quaker proprietor of Pennsylvania who offered his colony as a refuge for persecuted Quakers. He treated Indians fairly, and his well-advertised colony became the most economically successful in English North America.

Pennsylvania Dutch
The Pennsylvania Dutch were actually German Mennonites who migrated to colonial Pennsylvania. They formed a politically influential faction in the Pennsylvania assembly. Their nickname derives from the German word for German, "Deutsche."

Pentagon Papers
The Pentagon Papers were classifed Defense Department documents on the history of the United States' involvement in Vietnam, prepared in 1968 and leaked to the press in 1971.

Pequot War
The Pequot War was a conflict between English settlers (who had Narrangansett and Mohegan allies) and Pequot Indians over control of land and trade in eastern Connecticut. The Pequots were nearly destroyed in a set of bloody confrontations, including a deadly English attack on a Mystic River village in May 1637.

Russian for "restructuring," this term applied to Mikhail Gorbachev's efforts to make the Soviet economic and political systems more modern, flexible, and innovative.

Perkins, Frances
Franklin Roosevelt's secretary of labor, Frances Perkins, was the first woman cabinet member. She helped draft New Deal labor legislation.

Perot, Ross
Texas billionaire Ross Perot ran as an independent candidate for president in 1992 and won 19 percent of the popular vote. He ran again in 1996 with less success.

Pershing, John J.
General "Black Jack" Pershing was the commander of the American Expeditionary Force (AEF), U.S. troops who served in Europe in World War I. He had earlier served in the Spanish-American War, the Philippine insurrection, and had commanded the military excursion into Mexico in 1916.

pet banks
Following his victory in the Bank War, President Jackson decided to withdraw federal funds deposited in its vaults. Secretary of Treasury Roger Taney then redeposited the funds in several state banks that Jackson's enemies dubbed "pet" banks.

During the Civil War, Petersburg was a key Confederate rail and supply center that guarded the Confederate capital of Richmond 30 miles to the north; it was besieged by Union forces from June 1864 to March 1865.

Philadelphia Convention
Responding to calls for a stronger and more energetic national government, 55 delegates met in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787 to draft a new constitution to replace the ineffective Articles of Confederation.

Pickering, John
District judge John Pickering, who clearly was insane, was removed from office during President Jefferson's first term attack on the Federalist dominated federal judiciary.

Pierce, Franklin
Pierce was a dark horse candidate who won the Democratic party presidential nomination from Lewis Cass and James Buchanan in 1852. He defeated the Whig candidate, Winfield Scott in the election. He was not a strong leader.

Pietists were Protestants who stressed a religion of the heart and the spirit of Christian living.

Pike, Zebulon
Pike's expedition explored the upper Mississippi Valley and the Colorado region in 1805-1807 where he discovered Pike's Peak. It also explored the upper reaches of the Rio Grande.

The Pilgrims were English Separatists who drafted the Mayflower Compact and established Plymouth Plantation in 1620. They viewed themselves as spiritual wanderers.

Pinchot, Gifford
Pinchot, the nation's chief forester and an avid conservationist, became involved in a dispute with President Taft's secretary of the interior, Richard Ballinger, in 1910. The dispute centered around the disposition of public domain in Alaska which Ballinger wanted to cede to mining interests, a move Pinchot opposed. Taft backed his secretary and earned the enmity of many pro-conservation progressives in Congress.

Pinckney's Treaty
In Pinckney's Treaty (also known as the Treaty of San Lorenzo), Spain granted the United States free navigation of the Mississippi River and the right of deposit at New Orleans. It also settled the boundary dispute between Spanish Florida and the United States on terms favorable to the United States, placing the boundary at the 31st parallel.

Pinckney, Thomas
Pinckney negotiated the Treaty of San Lorenzo (Pinckney's Treaty) with Spain in 1795. It opened the Mississippi River to American trade and guaranteed Americans the right of deposit at New Orleans.

Pitt, William
Pitt became the war minister for England in 1757 during the French and Indian War. He was a brilliant strategist who poured the full resources of the British empire into defeating the French in this Great War for the Empire.

Plantations were large (commonly 1000 to 2000 acres), usually well-managed farms in the antebellum South. They used slave labor to produce the most profitable cash crop, cotton. They were very profitable business enterprises.

Platt Amendment
The Platt Amendment (to the Cuban Constitution) authorized U.S. intervention in Cuba to protect American interests. Cuba pledged not to make foreign treaties that might compromise its independence, and it granted naval bases to the United States at Guantanamo Bay.

Plessy v. Ferguson
In "Plessy v. Ferguson" (1895) the Supreme Court ruled that racially segregated places of public accommodation (like schools) were constitutional if they were of equal quality. This "separate but equal" doctrine led quickly to wholesale segregation, and equal facilities were rarely provided for blacks. The doctrine was overturned in 1954.

Plymouth Company
The Plymouth Company was one of two joint-stock companies chartered in 1606 to establish English colonies in America. Composed of merchants from England's western ports, the company organized the founding of Plymouth Colony in 1620.

pocket veto
The president can keep a bill from becoming law by leaving it unsigned. President Lincoln pocket vetoed the Wade-Davis bill in 1864 because he preferred his more moderate ten percent plan for Reconstruction.

Poe, Edgar Allan
Poe was one of the most imaginative romantics of the early nineteenth century. He was fascinated with mystery, fright, and the occult. Poe wrote "The Raven."

Government-directed attacks against Jewish citizens, property, and villages in tsarist Russia, pogroms began in the 1880s and were a primary reason for Russian Jewish migration to the United States.

political boss
Late nineteenth-century political "bosses" headed political "machines"--loose-knit neighborhood organizations headed by anti-reform and often corrupt political bosses. They often provided useful services for their constituents (usually immigrants ignorant of democratic processes), in return for political support.

political platform
A political party's "platform" expresses the party's position on major issues (each issue is a "plank" in the platform). In the late nineteenth century, party platforms often equivocated on the issues in order to attract as many independents to the party as possible.

Polk, James K.
Polk, a dark horse candidate, was elected president in 1844 on a platform of territorial expansion. His election secured the annexation of Texas in 1845. The Mexican War, fought during his term, resulted in the United States' acquisition of New Mexico and California in 1848.

poll taxes
Poll taxes were used by southern states to deprive blacks of the vote despite the Fifteenth Amendment. Voters were required to pay a tax when they went to the polls. Most blacks and many poor whites could not or chose not to pay the tax, thus they could not vote.

Pollock, Jackson
Pollock led the post-World War II New York school of abstract expressionists in American art. He composed highly abstract and utterly subjective designs by dripping paint on a canvas in a wild tangle of color.

The founder of the Mormon faith, Joseph Smith, authorized polygamy, the marriage of males to more than one wife at a time, among his followers. Polygamy was shocking to non-believers and the Mormons were persecuted for their unorthodox behavior.

Pontiac's Rebellion
Along with Neolin of the Delawares, Pontiac, an Ottawa chief, tried to hold back white advancement into the trans-Appalachian frontier in 1763-1766. Fearful of their fate at the hands of the British after the French had been driven out of North America, the Indian nations of the Ohio River Valley and the Great Lakes area united to oust the British from the Ohio-Mississippi Valley. The rebellion failed and they were forced to make peace in 1766.

poor white trash
Poor white trash was the pejorative term applied to the poor farmers of the pine barrens and remote valleys of the Appalachians who lived in ignorance and squalor on subsistence land. They inhabited the lowest class for whites in the antebellum South.

Popè was a Pueblo Indian leader who led a revolt against Spanish authority in New Mexico in 1680. The revolt was only temporarily successful, but, to avoid future revolts, the Spanish learned to moderate their policies toward their Indian charges.

popular sovereignty
Popular sovereignty was the term applied to the principle of allowing the people of a territory to decide for themselves whether to ban or to permit slavery in their territory; an idea hatched by Michigan Senator Lewis Cass in 1848. He urged it as a solution to the question of slavery in the territories. It called for Congress to organize territories without mention of slavery, thus leaving it to settlers within the territories to determine the status of slavery among them.

Populist (or People´s) Party
Also known as the People´s Party, the Populist Party held its first national convention in Omaha in 1892. Combining disgruntled farmers workers engaged in several industries (especially mining and timber), and social reformers, the Populists emerged as a major party in the plains states and in the West. In 1892 the Populists nominated James B. Weaver for president; in 1896, they struck an unofficial truce with the Democratic Party in support of William Jennings Bryan for president.

Port Huron Statement
The Port Huron Statement (1962) was the founding document of the Students for a Democratic Society (SDS). The Statement expressed youths' concern with racial bigotry, the atomic bomb, and self-indulgent wealth and power. It advocated participatory democracy as a way to make government and corporations socially responsible.

Potsdam Conference
At Potsdam, Germany, in April 1945, Allied leaders divided Germany and Berlin into four occupation zones, agreed to try Nazi leaders as war criminals, and planned the exacting of reparations from Germany. In the Potsdam Declaration, the United States also declared its intention to democratize the Japanese political system and reintroduce Japan into the international community and gave Japan an opening for surrender.

The philosophy of pragmatism, closely identified with William James, held that in a world of constant change (evolution), absolutes were difficult to justify, and that abstract concepts were useful only in terms of their practical effects. Pragmatism inspired much of the reform movement of late nineteenth century America, but it also seemed to suggest that the end justifies the means and to promote materialism.

praying towns
Praying towns were villages established in Massachusetts for Indian converts to Christianity. The inhabitants were expected to follow an English way of life as well as the Puritan religion.

Predestination was the Puritan belief that God had predetermined who was among the saved, thus, what a person did on Earth had no effect on his or her fate after death. This supported a doctrine of grace--that salvation came as a gift of God.

Preparedness refers to the military buildup in preparation for possible U.S. participation in World War I.

Preservation refers to the protection of forests, land, and other features of the natural environment from development or destruction, often for aesthetic appreciation.

The Presidio was a military post established by the Spanish in the Southwest.

Prince Henry
Henry was the Portuguese prince who established a school of navigation to codify and improve navigational knowledge in the early fifteenth century. He was known as "the Navigator."

Princip, Gavrilo
In June 1914, Princip, a Serbian nationalist, assassinated Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne. This incident precipitated the outbreak of World War I in Europe.

Because the United States had no navy when the War of 1812 began, Congress commissioned several hundred merchant ships, or privateers, to arm themselves and attack British commerce.

privileged sanctuaries
Early in the Korean War, General MacArthur advocated conquering North Korea, bombing its privileged sanctuaries on the Chinese side of the Yalu River, and deploying Nationalist Chinese troops from Formosa to the Chinese mainland. His recommendations were well in advance of what civilian and military leaders, including President Truman, were willing to do.

Proclamation of 1763
The British proclaimed a new western policy in the Proclamation of 1763. No settlers were allowed to cross the Appalachian divide, termed the "Proclamation Line." It was much resented by land hungry American colonists and proved unenforceable.

Proclamation of Neutrality
When war broke out between England and France in 1793, President Washington issued a proclamation of neutrality committing the United States to be friendly and impartial toward both England and France.

Progress and Poverty
Henry George wrote "Progress and Poverty" in 1879. It was an attack on the maldistribution of wealth in the United States. He advocated a single tax on land as the solution to the growing gap between rich and poor.

Progressive Era
The period of the twentieth century before World War I, the Progressive Era saw many groups seeking to reshape the nation's government and society in response to the pressures of industrialization and urbanization.

progressive individualism
President Hoover's philosophy for the New Era of American prosperity was called progressive individualism. He believed that American capitalists had learned to curb their selfishness and could be expected to enter into voluntary trade associations that would create codes of business practices and ethics, and regulate competition.

Progressivism is the label historians attach to a highly variegated movement for social change that climaxed between the Spanish-American War and World War I. Its origins lay in the effort to control big business, provide social justice, and clean up corruption and inefficiency in government.

Prohibition movement
The prohibitionists succeeded in getting Congress to pass the Eighteenth Amendment (1918) which banned the manufacture, sale, and transportation of alcoholic beverages in the United States. While it was in effect, Prohibition reduced national consumption of alcohol, but it was poorly enforced and easily evaded in the cities. It was repealed by the Twenty-first Amendment in 1933.

Prohibition party
The Prohibition party is a venerable third party still in existence that has persistently campaigned for the abolition of alcohol but has also introduced many important reform ideas into American politics.

proletarian mob
Many so-called urban reformers (usually middle class) resented the boss system of machine politics in major cities because it gave political power to what they called the "proletarian mob"--recent immigrants who were unschooled in democratic institutions.

The term proletariat usually identifies the class-conscious workers of an industrialized economy. America's industrial workers, for a variety of reasons, tended not to be class-conscious.

proportional representation
Delegates at the Constitutional Convention in 1787 debated having a national legislature chosen on the basis of equal representation with each state having equal voting strength, or proportional representation with each state's representation based on the size of its population. The debate ended in the Great Compromise.

proprietary colony
A proprietary colony was created when the English monarch granted a huge tract of land to an individual or group of individuals, who became "lords proprietor." Many lords proprietor had distinct social visions for their colonies, but these plans were hardly ever realized. Examples of proprietary colonies are Maryland, Carolina, New York (after it was seized from the Dutch), and Pennsylvania.

Also known as lords proprietors, proprietors were recipients of great landed estates from the English monarchs. Maryland, founded in 1632, and all English colonies in America founded after the restoration of the English monarchy in 1660 were proprietary colonies. Proprietors hoped to earn a profit from the colonies they founded.

protective tariff
Congress passed the first protective tariff act in 1816. Protective tariffs were designed to protect America's infant industries from the competition of less expensive foreign imports, thus making the nation's economy more self-sufficient.

Protestant Reformation
The Protestant Reformation was a sixteenth century effort to reform and challenge the authority of the Roman Catholic church. It tended to promote nationalism and the fortunes of the business classes in Europe.

provincial congress
A provincial congress was an extralegal, Revolutionary representative body that conducted government and waged the Revolution at the state level in the period between the breakdown of royal authority and the establishment of regular legislatures under new state constitutions. Many members of these congresses had been members of the old colonial assemblies; the Massachusetts General Court and the Virginia House of Burgesses, in fact, transformed themsleves into provincial congresses or conventions. (The terms were used interchangeably at first).

Colonists were provincials in that they took a narrow view of British imperial concerns and only reluctantly complied with imperial policy.

Sigmund Freud's ideas affected the thinking and behavior of the progressives. They saw in his psychoanalytic theories an advocacy of a revolution in manners and morals, including the ending of the double standard relating to sex, and the rejection of Victorian morality.

Public Utility Holding Company Act of 1935
This law gave the Securities and Exchange Commission extensive regulatory powers over public utility companies.

Public Works Administration (PWA)
This federal agency under Harold Ickes provided work relief by building schools, hospitals, roads, and other valuable projects during the 1930s.

Pueblo Revolt
Religious conflict and excessive Spanish demands for tribute sparked this rebellion in 1680 of Pueblo Indians in New Mexico against their Spanish overloads.

A pugilist is a boxer. John L. Sullivan, who became the world's heavyweight champion in 1882, was the most famous boxer of his day.

Pulitzer, Joseph
Pulitzer, publisher of the "New York World" was the first newspaper publisher to reach a truly mass audience. He did it with a combination of sensationalism, solid political and financial coverage, and civic crusading.

Pullman strike
The strike at the Pullman railroad car company in Chicago was the most important strike of the late nineteenth century. It was provoked by wage cuts. Eugene V. Debs organized the strike, but it was broken when President Cleveland sent federal troops to keep the trains running.

Puritans were moderate English religious dissenters who believed that Queen Elizabeth's reforms of the Church of England had not gone far enough in improving the church, particularly in ensuring that church members were among the saved, and who objected to the ritual and governing structure of the Anglican church. Many migrated to Massachusetts Bay after 1630 to establish a religious commonwealth.

putting-out system
In this system of manufacturing, merchants furnished households with raw materials for processing by family members.

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