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Encyclopedia of American History

Encyclopedia of American History

by Robert A. Rosenbaum, Douglas Brinkley
From Abington to Zimmerman, from Jamestown to Enron, this concise, accessible volume spans American history from its beginnings through 2002. Its 1,500 entries include articles on every presidential election through 2000, on every presidential administration through Clinton's, on the U.S. Supreme Court and its landmark cases, and on all the key events and concepts


From Abington to Zimmerman, from Jamestown to Enron, this concise, accessible volume spans American history from its beginnings through 2002. Its 1,500 entries include articles on every presidential election through 2000, on every presidential administration through Clinton's, on the U.S. Supreme Court and its landmark cases, and on all the key events and concepts that have shaped American History.

Author Biography: Robert A. Rosenbaum is the author of Earnest Victorians and The Public Issues Handbook and editor of many reference works.

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Abington School District v. Schempp (1963), 8-1 decision of the *Warren Court overturning a Pennsylvania law that required morning Bible reading in the state's public schools. The Court ruled that the law breached the wall of separation between church and state that had been erected by the religion clauses-the Establishment and Free Exercise clauses-of the First Amendment.As Justice Tom Clark explained: "[T]he Establishment Clause has been directly considered by this Court eight times in the past score of years and, with only one Justice dissenting on the point, it has consistently held that the clause withdrew all legislative power respecting religious belief or the expression thereof. The test may be stated as follows: what are the purpose and the primary effect of the enactment? If either is the advancement or inhibition of religion then the enactment exceeds the scope of legislative power as circumscribed by the Constitution. That is to say that to withstand the strictures of the Establishment Clause there must be a secular legislative purpose and a primary effect that neither advances nor inhibits religion. The Free Exercise Clause, likewise considered many times here, withdraws from legislative power, state and federal, the exertion of any restraint on the free exercise of religion. Its purpose is to secure religious liberty in the individual by prohibiting any invasions thereof by civil authority."

The one justice who dissented in this and similar cases, Potter Stewart, argued that the Court was not manifesting neutrality toward religion but hostility (see *Church-State Relations).

>Abolitionists (1830-70), advocates of immediate emancipation of slaves and their integration into American society. Most antislavery people were not abolitionists. The "free-soilers" sought to prevent the extension of slavery into new regions, generally believing that slavery, confined to the states where it then existed, would eventually die out. The colonizationists (see *Colonization) coupled emancipation with deportation in the widely shared belief that the white and black races could not live together. After 1830, most Southerners were violently opposed to emancipation and most Northerners to racial equality and integration. Both abhorred abolitionists as dangerous fanatics. Gradualist emancipation sentiment had been strong in both North and South from the American Revolution until 1830. Thereafter the South effectively suppressed such views and the North acquiesced, Northern capitalists being implicated in Southern slave-based prosperity and Northern working people being unwilling to compete with free black labor. But a wave of religious revivalism in the 1820s planted the seeds of an abolitionist movement in men-and especially women-who came to see slavery as sinful. In the early 1830s a number of able propagandists, clergymen, and philanthropists took up the cause, among them William Lloyd Garrison, Wendell Phillips, Sarah and Angelica Grimké, Theodore Dwight Weld, John Greenleaf Whittier, and Arthur and Lewis Tappan. *Free blacks were numerous in the movement-including such prominent lecturers as Frederick Douglass and Sojourner Truth-but they were denied positions of leadership. The American Anti-Slavery Society, founded in 1833, spawned branches throughout the North. Membership peaked in 1840 at about 200,000, the majority of them women.

The abolitionists engaged in propaganda through churches and public meetings, the press (see *Liberator, The), and petitions to Congress (see *Gag Rules). They were met by hostility, ranging from the burning of abolitionist literature taken from the mails in the South to mob violence in the North culminating in the murder of abolitionist editor Elijah Lovejoy in 1837. In 1840 the movement split, Garrison and the American Anti-Slavery Society continuing to pursue nonviolent but uncompromising "moral suasion." Garrison eschewed politics because he believed that the Constitution was a slaveholders' document and that voting would be a sin. Pragmatic abolitionists led by the Tappans formed (1840) the American and Foreign Anti-Slavery Society and entered politics through the *Liberty Party. In the 1840s Garrison, always the most extreme of the abolitionists, became a disunionist; under his influence the American Anti-Slavery Society in 1843 adopted a resolution to the effect that the U.S. Constitution was a "covenant with death and an agreement with hell."

As antislavery sentiment grew in the North in the 1850s, abolitionists were still disliked as extremists. John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry (1859; see *Brown's Career) confirmed the South in its conviction of an abolitionist menace but horrified much of the North as well. The *Republican Party, founded in 1854, was free-soil, not abolitionist.

During the Civil War, abolitionists were impatient with Pres. Abraham Lincoln's cautious policy toward slavery and dissatisfied with the *Emancipation Proclamation. With the passage (1865) of the *13th Amendment ending slavery, Garrison considered the mission of the American Anti-Slavery Society accomplished. Others, however, led by Phillips, continued the society until 1870, when the *15th Amendment extended male suffrage to African-Americans.

Abortion. Abortion was unregulated in the United States until the mid-19th century, when states began to prohibit it not out of moral concern but in the professional interest of physicians. During the first half of the 20th century, abortion was available to affluent women for whom sympathetic physicians found "therapeutic" reasons to justify the procedure. Poor women were compelled to undergo illegal and dangerous procedures.

By 1970, some states permitted exceptions to the outright ban on abortions, while four states and the District of Columbia had legalized them. In 1973 the U.S. Supreme Court (see *Burger Court) overturned state prohibitions when it ruled, in *Roe v. Wade, that women had a right to abortion based on their constitutional right to privacy. The Court reaffirmed its opinion that abortion was a private matter between the woman and her physician when, in Planned Parenthood of Central Missouri v. Danforth (1976), it struck down a state statute requiring that a married woman obtain the prior written consent of her husband and that a minor obtain the written consent of a parent. But in Harris v. McRae (1980), the Court upheld the constitutionality of the "Hyde Amendment," which barred the use of Medicaid funds to pay for abortions for poor women. Conservatives hoped that the *Rehnquist Court would overturn Roe, but the anti-Roe justices could not muster five votes. Instead, the Court upheld state restrictions on access to abortion. In Webster v. Reproductive Health Services (1989), the Court upheld a Missouri law that prohibited the performance of abortions in public hospitals and barred public employees from performing or assisting at such operations. In Hogden v. Minnesota (1990), it upheld a state law prohibiting unmarried teenage girls from obtaining abortions without notifying their parents or getting a judge's permission. In Rust v. Sullivan (1991), the Court upheld federal regulations adopted in the Reagan administration that cut off federal funding for family-planning clinics that discussed abortion with their patients. In Planned Parenthood v. Casey (1992), the Court upheld most provisions of a Pennsylvania law that required doctors to inform women of alternatives to abortion, required women to wait 24 hours before undergoing the operation, and required teenagers to get the consent of a parent or a judge. The Court rejected a requirement that a woman notify her husband of a planned abortion. The ruling set standards of "undue burden" and "substantial obstacle" by which to determine if a state's restrictions on access to abortion were constitutional.

On the other hand, in a series of decisions between 1994 and 2000, the Rehnquist Court upheld lower-court orders and local ordinances keeping antiabortion protesters at a distance from abortion clinics. And in Stenberg v. Carhart (2000), the Court overturned 5-4 a Nebraska law (and similar laws in 30 other states) banning late-term (so-called partial-birth) abortions.

The response of the medical profession to Roe was uneven. In populous states and large cities, abortion services were soon available. However, most hospitals refused to provide them: Catholic hospitals out of religious conviction; public hospitals in response to pressure from antiabortion forces; hospitals in small towns and rural areas out of deference to conservative public opinion. Many physicians, for personal reasons, also refused to perform abortions. As a result, the availability of abortion services varied widely from region to region. The great majority were performed in metropolitan areas of the West Coast and Northeast and Mid-Atlantic states and in clinics established for that purpose rather than in hospitals.

The Supreme Court's decisions divided the country into pro-life (antiabortion) and pro-choice (freedom to choose) movements, represented most prominently by the National Right to Life Committee and the National Abortion and Reproductive Action League. Inspired by religious conviction and conservative views of family and gender roles, the pro-life people succeeded in obtaining federal and state legislation limiting access to abortion. Pro-life activists-notably members of Operation Rescue, founded in 1987 by Randall Terry-regularly picketed and harassed abortion clinics and their patrons. Extremists resorted to bombings, arson, and assassination, killing a number of physicians and clinic employees during the 1990s.

The availability of RU-486-the so-called French abortion pill-promised to alter the tactics of the abortion war. The pill could be administered by a doctor or nurse practitioner as early as the third week of pregnancy in the anonymity of a medical office rather than at an abortion clinic. Administration of the pill, however, proved more time consuming and expensive than surgical abortions, and initial acceptance was slow.

Public opinion has consistently supported the pro-choice position that a woman should be free to choose whether to have an abortion. On the spectrum of public opinion, minorities at either end advocate making all abortions illegal or legal. The majority of Americans approve of abortion for "hard" or compelling reasons-rape, incest, the woman's health, deformity of the fetus-but not for "soft" reasons-the family cannot afford more children, the family has as many children as it wants, the pregnant woman is single and does not want to marry her partner. Abrams v. United States (1919), 7-2 decision of the *White Court upholding the constitutionality of the Sedition Act of 1918 (see *Espionage Act). Jacob Abrams, a Russian immigrant and anarchist, and others had been convicted under the act of publishing leaflets in English and Yiddish condemning the sending of U.S. troops to Russia (see *Russian Intervention) and calling for a general strike in protest. Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, who had voted with a unanimous Court to uphold the Espionage Act in *Schenk v. United States, now had second thoughts and, with Justice Louis D. Brandeis, dissented.

No clear and present danger was presented by "these poor and puny anonymities," Holmes argued. The defendants were being punished "not for what the indictment alleges but for the creed that they avow."

"Persecution for the expression of opinions seems to me perfectly logical," Holmes continued. "If you have no doubt of your premises or your power and want a certain result with all your heart you naturally express your wishes in law and sweep away all opposition. . . . But when men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more than they believe the very foundations of their own conduct that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas-that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out. That at any rate is the theory of our Constitution. It is an experiment, as all life is an experiment. Every year if not every day we have to wager our salvation upon some prophecy based upon imperfect knowledge. While that experiment is part of our system I think that we should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death, unless they so imminently threaten immediate interference with the lawful and pressing purposes of the law that an immediate check is required to save the country."

Acheson and Truman. See *Truman and Acheson.

—from The Penguin Encyclopedia of American History by Robert A. Rosenbaum, Douglas Brinkley (ed.), Copyright © 2003 by Robert A. Rosenbaum, Published by Penguin Reference, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., all rights reserved, reprinted with permission from the publisher.

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