Abolition: The act of doing away with something permanently. The abolition of slavery. A person who fought to end slavery was called an abolitionist.

Annexation: To append or attach, especially to a larger or more significant thing. To incorporate (territory) into an existing political unit such as a country, state, or city. The U.S considered annexing Santo Domingo (present day Dominican Republic) until Congress voted against annexation in the 1890s.

Antebellum: This term is used to describe a time period occurring before a war, used most often to describe the period before the Civil War in the United States.

Asylum: This is a place of refuge, safety, sanctuary, shelter, or protection. Ebenezer D. Basset insisted that the American Consulate and its property in Haiti remain a safe haven for anyone who fled the political violence of Haiti’s many Civil Wars during his time as Minister Resident. Bassett saved many lives because he refused to allow violent forces to violate the principle of asylum.

Banish: To expel, send away, exile, deport, drive out. Often used in politics to remove or deport a former leader or person of power from a nation in conflict. Banishment may be used as an alternative to execution.

Bilious Attack: An antique medical term relating to or characterized by gastric distress thought to be called by a disorder of the liver or gallbladder. Such attacks could be deadly but were little understood in Bassett’s time. Therefore the term was used to describe numerous illnesses. Several times Bassett was so ill from “bilious attack” several times that it was feared he might die.

Black Codes: Regulations passed by Southern state governments during Reconstruction to prohibit African Americans from voting.

Black Governor: An elected office created by a traditional form of black government that began in New England during the colonial period. Although black men could not vote or hold office, they organized themselves into political communities and held elections for a “governor.” Though their powers were limited and unofficial the governors were important men in the community who judged disputes and imposed punishments usually fines. These governors were held in high regard by both the black and white communities. Ebenezer D. Bassett was the son and grandson of black governors from Derby, CT.

Black Law of Connecticut (1833): In the year of Ebenezer D. Bassett’s birth, Connecticut passed the Black Law. This restricted African Americans from coming into Connecticut to get an education and prohibited anyone from opening a school to educate African Americans from outside the state without getting a town's permission. Prudence Crandall, now the State of Connecticut’s official heroine, opened a school to educate black children in her home in Canterbury, CT. The Black Law made it illegal for her to operate the school. Crandall was jailed, tried, and persecuted for defying the Black Law. In 1834 violence against the school increased and an angry mob attacked and tried to burn the academy. After this incident Crandall decided that for the safety of her students she would close the school.
Census: The United States Census is a decennial census mandated by the United States Constitution. The population is enumerated, or counted, every ten years and the results are used to allocate Congressional seats (congressional apportionment), electoral votes, and government program funding. The first U.S. Census took place in 1790. A great deal of demographic data is also collected, and the U.S. Census is a rich resource of research data for all types of information.
Civil Rights: Fundamental rights, including life, liberty and property belonging to every member of society.

Colonization Movement: The ACS (American Colonization Society), founded in 1816 by Charles Fenton Mercer, was comprised of two groups, “philanthropists, clergy and abolitionist who wanted to free African slaves and their descendants and provide them with the opportunity to return to Africa, the other
group was the slave owners who feared free people of color and wanted to expel them from America. By 1847, the American Colonization Society founded Liberia and designated it as the land to be colonized by all black people returning from the United States of America. Many blacks protested eloquently that they had been born in America and considered themselves Americans. In many cases their fathers had fought and shed blood for American freedom. They felt no connection to Africa and sought none. Their focus was on political recognition by the majority in the North and abolition of slavery in the South. By the time of the Civil War, black men were eager to fight for the Union because they rightfully believed that if the Union won the war, slavery would be abolished.

Consulate: The office of a Consul is termed a Consulate. During Ebenezer D. Bassett’s time it was a nation’s main representation in that foreign country. Today it would be called an embassy. In addition to being the official residence of the Minister Resident (ambassador), or counsel and his family, the consulate would have a compound with offices and other buildings for official business. During times of strife and civil war in Haiti, Bassett would champion the cause of political asylum for people seeking refuge at the consulate and would save many lives by holding to this principle. Today the embassy is a nation’s leading representation in a foreign country and consulates are satellites in various major locations of the foreign country.

Dereliction of Duty: Failure to obey an order or regulation. It means that one willfully, through negligence or culpable inefficiency, failure to perform one's expected duties.

Dignitary: A person who holds a high rank or office, as in the government or church.

Dispatches: Official communications or messages transmitted through official and unofficial diplomatic channels. All Bassett’s dispatches had to be handwritten and communications were very slow. All of Bassett’s communications with the Secretary of State and the State Department in Washington, D.C., had to be transported by ship. This left long periods of time between requests and answers during times of emergency and crisis. The first transatlantic cable between the U.S. and Europe was laid in 1858. The connection was fragile, and it was not until 1865, the last year of the Civil War, and 1866 that transatlantic communications by telegraph became stable. There was no telegraphic connection with Haiti while Bassett was Minister Resident. To learn more about the role of communications in U.S. diplomacy during and after Ebenezer Bassett’s time go to: http://www.state.gov/r/pa/ho/time/gp/17334.htm

Emancipation Proclamation: On January 1, 1863, Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing slaves in Confederate-held territory. The Civil War then became a war to end slavery. The Emancipation Proclamation strengthened the Union cause internationally and isolated the Confederacy. Its issue prevented England or France from aiding the Confederacy. In 1865 the 13th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution would officially abolish slavery in the United States forever.

Exacerbate: To increase the severity, bitterness, or violence of (disease, ill feeling, etc.,); to aggravate, embitter, irritate.


Exile: Banish, send away, deport, expel, cast out. Like banishment above, often used in politics to remove or deport a former leader or person of power from a nation in conflict. May be used as an alternative to execution.

Faction: A group, section, party, splinter group, bloc, division.

Fifteenth Amendment (1870): The right to vote for all men will not be denied “on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.”

Fourteenth Amendment (1868): All persons born or naturalized in the United States are citizens of the United States and no State may make or enforce any law that will abridge the rights and privileges of citizens. All persons have a right to life, liberty and property. All persons have the right to due process and equal protection of the laws.

Hispaniola: The second-largest and most populous island of the Antilles, lying between the islands of Cuba to the west, and Puerto Rico to the east. It is located directly within the hurricane belt. The Republic of Haiti occupies the western third of the island, and the Dominican Republic the eastern two-thirds of the island. Christopher Columbus first arrived on the island in western Hispaniola (present day Haiti) on December 5, 1492.

Impeachment: Charging a public official with a crime in office for which they can be removed from power. Only the House of Representatives has the right to impeach the President. If the President is impeached he must face trial in the Senate. The Chief Justice of the Supreme Court presides over a presidential impeachment trial in the Senate.

Legation: A delegation, taskforce, group, embassy.

Mercenaries: Armed forces, a private army, or band of soldiers for hire.

Middle Passage: The forcible passage of African people from Africa to the New World, as part of the Atlantic slave trade. Ships departed Europe for African markets with commercial goods, which were in turn traded for kidnapped Africans who were transported across the Atlantic as slaves; the enslaved Africans were then sold or traded as commodities for raw materials, which would be transported back to Europe to complete the "triangular trade.” The term "Middle Passage" thus refers to that branch of the transatlantic trade in which millions of Africans were imprisoned, enslaved, and removed from their homelands.

Minister Resident: In Ebenezer D. Bassett’s time, his appointment as Minister Resident made him the highest ranking U. S. diplomat to Haiti. The term ambassador (the highest diplomatic rank) was not used by the U.S. until 1893. Years ago ambassador was a term reserved among major nations for their diplomats, or close allies. A major nation would probably send just an envoy to a minor nation, who in return would send an envoy to the major nation. As a result, the United States did not use the rank of ambassador until its emergence as a major world power. Until the mid-20th century the majority of diplomats in the world were of the rank of envoy.

Mole St. Nicholas: A town in the Republic of Haiti. It is the chief town of the Môle Saint-Nicolas Arrondissement in the department of Nord-Ouest. It is located on the site where Christopher Columbus landed on December 6, 1492 and founded the settlement of La Navidad. The town's fête day is December 6, to celebrate Columbus' arrival. During Frederick Douglass’s appointment as Minister Resident to Haiti, the State Department instructed him to negotiate a lease for the area for use as a coaling station for the U.S. fleet.

Monroe Doctrine: Issued under President James Monroe, on December 2, 1823, it stated that European powers were no longer to colonize or interfere with the affairs of the newly independent states of the Americas. The United States planned to stay neutral in wars between European powers and their colonies.

Nineteenth Amendment (1920): Women granted voting rights. “The rights of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

Plessy v. Ferguson (1896): The case where the Supreme Court ruled that “separate but equal” public facilities were permissible under the Constitution.

Recession: Recession is defined as the time when business activity has reached its peak and starts to fall until the time when business activity “bottoms out.” When the business activity starts to rise again, it is called an expansionary period. By this definition, the average recession lasts about a year. The standard newspaper definition of a recession is a decline in the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for two or more consecutive quarters. A depression is a severe downturn in economic activity. Depressions are considerably worse than recessions. The old term for an economic depression was “panic” due to the reactions that occurred in the economic sectors and general population and the havoc they caused with peoples’ lives and well-being.

Reconstruction: In the history of the United States, Reconstruction refers to the period between 1863 or 1865 and 1877 when the federal government focused on resolving the consequences and aftermath of the American Civil War (1861–1865). It is also the common name for the general history of the post-Civil War era in the former Confederacy between 1865 and 1877. Reconstruction addressed how secessionist Southern states would regain self-government and seats in Congress, the civil status of the leaders of the Confederacy, and the Constitutional and legal status of Freedmen (the freed slaves). After the Civil War, violent controversy erupted throughout the South over how to tackle such issues, as former Confederates organized in paramilitary groups to resist defeat, including secret vigilante groups such as the Ku Klux Klan. The Constitutional Amendments and legislative reforms that laid the foundation for the most radical phase of Reconstruction were enacted from 1865 until 1871. By the 1870s, Reconstruction had made some progress in providing the Freedmen with equal rights under the law, and Freedmen were voting and taking political office. Republican legislatures, coalitions of whites and blacks, established the first public school systems in the South. In 1877, President Rutherford Hayes withdrew federal troops, causing the collapse of the last three remaining Republican state governments. Starting in 1890, thirteen years after Reconstruction ended, southern states used disenfranchising statutes and constitutions to put in place devices, such as poll taxes, literacy tests, and the use of whites-only primaries. These extralegal means prevented most blacks from voting. By 1900 Southern white Democrats established a one-party rule and, enforced a system of racial segregation that continued in varying degrees throughout the South into the 1960s. Bitterness from the heated partisanship of the era lasted well into the 20th century.

Restitution: Compensation, recompense, reimbursement, making amends, repayment, refund, restoration, return, reinstatement.

Secession: (derived from the Latin term “secessio”) Is the act of withdrawing from an organization, union, or especially a political entity. It is not to be confused with succession, the act of following in order or sequence. In U.S. History in 1861 eleven southern states left the Union and the Civil War began.

Segregation: The separation or isolation of a race, class, or ethnic group from the rest of society.

Separate but Equal Doctrine: The arrangement once upheld by the Supreme Court, that separate public facilities were constitutional if the facilities were of equal quality.

Siege: A siege is a military blockade of a city or fortress with the intent of conquering by attrition and/or assault. The term derives from “sedere”, Latin for "seat" or "sitting." A siege occurs when an attacker encounters a city or fortress that cannot be easily taken by a frontal assault and refuses to surrender. Several times while Bassett was Minister Resident in Haiti, rebel forces besieged the American compound where people sought asylum. Bassett saved many lives because he insisted that he, as the ranking American diplomat, had the right to grant safety and asylum to those who sought refuge.
Soirees: Exquisite parties with unique twists and personalized details, all effortlessly executed with style and grace. Ebenezer D. Bassett and his wife Eliza held numerous soirees in the American Consulate to bring factions together and to create social and political connections that would further American diplomatic goals.

Thirteenth Amendment (1865): Ended slavery forever in the United States of America

Underground Railroad: Neither underground nor a railroad, the underground railroad was an informal network of secret routes and safe houses used by 19th century Black slaves in the United States to escape to free states and Canada with the aid of abolitionists who were sympathetic to their cause. Members of The Underground Railroad often used specific jargon based on the metaphor of the railway. For example:

  • People who helped slaves find the Railroad were "agents"
  • Guides were known as "conductors"
  • Hiding places were "stations"
  • Abolitionists would fix the "tracks"
  • "Stationmasters" hid slaves in their homes
  • Escaped slaves were referred to as "passengers" or "cargo"
  • Slaves would obtain a "ticket"
  • Just as in common gospel lore, the "wheels would keep on turning"
  • Financial benefactors of the Railroad were known as "stockholders".
  • The Big Dipper, whose "bowl" points to the North Star, was known as the “drinkin' gourd,” and allegedly was immortalized in a contemporary song. The Railroad itself was often known as the "Freedom Train" or "Gospel Train," which headed towards "Heaven" or "The Promised Land"—Canada.