What is the first example of a Western government passing a sin tax?

What is the first example of a Western government passing a sin tax?

We are searching data for your request:

Forums and discussions:
Manuals and reference books:
Data from registers:
Wait the end of the search in all databases.
Upon completion, a link will appear to access the found materials.

What is the first example of a Western government passing a sin or vice tax -- that is, a tax passed primarily to discourage consumption of certain goods due to moral, not economic, concerns? Protective tariffs and mercantilist policies therefore don't count.

States have a long history of directly regulating consumption, but I'm curious about when states first began to indirectly regulate consumption. The first formal treatment of using taxes to reduce "externalities" that I know of comes from Arthur C. Pigou in 1920, but obviously statesmen had long known that taxes have the power to discourage targeted behaviors. I think that Hamilton's Whiskey tax was overwhelmingly a fiscal measure, but he was at least aware that it had a moral angle:

The consumption of ardent spirits particularly, no doubt very much on account of their cheapness, is carried on to an extreme, which is truely to be regretted, as well in regard to the health and morals, as to the economy of the community.

So I'm inclined not to count the Whiskey tax. What is the first example of a Western government passing a tax primarily to discourage "immoral" behavior?

Not sure they were the first laws primarily motivated by "moral outrage" but the the effects on the poor of cheap, low quality gin certainly was a factor in passing the British Gin Acts of 1736 and 1751 - cf Hogarth's Gin Lane and Beer Street.


The issuance of fines or taxes on luxury goods is part of the general phenomenon known as sumptuary laws. The Wikipedia article gives a good history. Also, note that Roman censors had the power to fine anybody they thought was living in a luxurious or dissipated manner. The Romans, in fact, made a huge deal out of enforcing puritanical morality on their citizens. Julius Caesar and Octavius both did stints as censors and used to brag about the heads they knocked for excessive luxury.

The 16th Amendment: Establishing Federal Income Tax

The 16th Amendment to the United States Constitution gives Congress the power to collect a federal income tax from all individuals and businesses without sharing or “apportioning” it among the states or basing the collection on the U.S. Census.

Fast Facts: 16th Amendment

  • Event Name: Enactment of the 16th Amendment to the United States Constitution.
  • Short Description: Through a constitutional amendment, replaced tariffs with a graduated income tax as the main source of revenue for the U.S. federal government.
  • Key Players/Participants: U.S. Congress, state legislatures, political parties and politicians, the American people.
  • Start Date: July 2, 1909 (16th Amendment passed by Congress and sent to the states for ratification.)
  • End Date: February 3, 1913 (16th Amendment ratified by the required three-fourths of the states.)
  • Other Significant Dates: February 25, 1913 (16th Amendment certified as part of the U.S. Constitution), October 3, 1913 (Revenue Act of 1913, imposing the federal income tax is signed into law)
  • Little Known Fact: The first U.S. tax code, as enacted in 1913, was about 400 pages long. Today, the law regulating the assessment and collection of federal income tax spans over 70,000 pages.

Ratified in 1913, the 16th Amendment and its resulting nationwide tax on income helped the federal government meet the growing demand for public services and Progressive Era social stability programs during the early 20th century. Today, the income tax remains the federal government’s largest single source of revenue.

The Articles of Confederation: The First Constitution of the United States

The need for a united policy during the War of Independence led the thirteen states to draft and approve an organic document for a national government.  In 1776, the Continental Congress created a committee to draft such a document.  In 1777, the committee reported a draft that had been prepared by Delegate John Dickinson.  After a period of debate and addition of amendments, the text was approved by the Congress and submitted to the states for ratification.  Unlike the current Constitution, all thirteen states had to approve the Articles before it would be in effect.  A number of years elapsed between the approval of the draft of the Articles of Confederation by the Continental Congress in late 1777 and the ratification by the final state in 1781.

Articles of Confederation

Under the Articles of Confederation, the power of the national government was exclusively centered in the Congress.  The Congress, called the “Congress of the Confederation” under the Articles, was based upon the institutions of the Second Continental Congress and, as such, was a unicameral body where each state had one vote.  The Articles provided for the annual appointment of delegates to the Congress, for the recall of delegates, and for the minimum and maximum number of delegates that would make up each state’s delegation.  In addition, provision was made for term limits for delegates.  Delegates were granted protection from arrest for activities arising from their official duties under a Speech and Debate Clause, a practice which was continued in the current Constitution.  The Congress was to meet annually and provision was made for the creation of a Committee of the States to conduct business when the Congress was not in session.

The Articles provided for no permanent national judiciary, although the Congress was given sole jurisdiction in matters of boundary disputes between states, and as part of the war powers it was given the power to create courts to determine prize cases (cases related to the capture of enemy commercial vessels on the high seas).  No national executive was created instead, after the ratification of the Articles in 1781, the Congress annually elected an individual who served as the President of the Congress.  The position had no broad executive powers, however.

As with the current Constitution, the Articles envisioned a level of comity between the states.  The Articles provided that “the free inhabitants of each of these states, paupers, vagabonds and fugitives from Justice excepted, shall be entitled to all privileges and immunities of free citizens in the several states.”  In addition, citizens were allowed the right to freely move with their property between the states.  Clauses governing extradition and the full faith and credit of public proceedings were also included.

In some ways the powers granted to the Congress under the current Constitution and the Articles are similar.  Both provide that the Congress has the sole authority for declaring war (although the Articles allowed for the States to wage war in instances of immediate invasion when the Congress was not in session).  Both provide that the national government would conduct foreign affairs, although the Articles allowed for states to send and receive embassies with the approval of Congress.  Both allow the Congress to set a system of uniform weights and measurements and to set standards for uniform coinage.  The Confederation Congress could also regulate interstate movement of the mails.

However, while the Articles provided that the Congress would have the power to pay the debts of the national government, it did not provide for a means for that body to directly raise revenue.  Although the Congress had certain authority which could be used to regulate the economy, it lacked enforcement power.  In addition, because of the perceived weakness of the national government, the diplomatic standing of the nation suffered.  The new nation was unable to compel the removal of British forces from the territory north of the Ohio River as required by the Treaty of Paris.   These and other shortcomings resulted in proposals to amend the Articles, which ultimately led to the Constitutional Convention of the summer of 1787.

It is worth noting that the government created by the Articles did have a lasting impact.  The Congress was able to successfully resolve disputes over the division of the western lands that had been surrendered by Great Britain after Independence.  The Land Ordinance of 1785 (laws passed by the Continental and Confederation Congresses are called ordinances) and the resulting North West Ordinance of 1787 are the most long lasting as they provided for the disposition of public lands and procedures for organizing territorial governments in the lands west of the Appalachian Mountains.  The framework established by these Ordinances was to be used later in the history of the country.  In addition, the Congress, in establishing the Federal Court of Appeals to resolve prize cases, provided a precedent for the establishment of the later Federal court system.  Finally, although the Articles have not often been cited in subsequent legal opinions, the idea that the union formed by them was “perpetual,” as set forth in Article XIII, was cited in dicta by Chief Justice Salmon Chase in the opinion of the Supreme Court in Texas v. White, 74 U.S. 700, 725 (1868).


what was the necessary amount of states that need to approve new legislation to be passed by the continental congress? For amendments to the articles
all the states had to approve, but what about for new legislation? In addition to the treaty of Paris and the two land ordinances, was there any other legislation that was passed under the articles of confederation?

What was the required amount of states that had to approve new legislation to be passed by the continental congress? All the states needed to approve for amendments to the articles, but what about new legislation? In addition to the treaty of Paris and the two land ordinances did any other legislation get passed?

Can we say that our country had two constitution?

How do people do things like this


What were the good laws that were passed in the Articles of Confederation?

umm the articles of confederation was created by the first what?

did th constitution become stronger or weaker

what were some of the listed laws?

Good description on the articles of confederation

What were the good laws that were passed in the Articles of Confederation?

what was the necessary amount of states that need to approve new legislation to be passed by the continental congress?

How do the government worked under the Articles Of Confederation?

How could the new government change the articles of confederation

Did the Articles of Confederation have a Bill of Rights, or did they not include it due to the lack of support. I believe the colonists didn’t want a Bill of Rights because then that would limit their rights to those written down, but I can’t recall if it was actually placed in the Articles of Confederation or not.

Add a Comment

This blog is governed by the general rules of respectful civil discourse. You are fully responsible for everything that you post. The content of all comments is released into the public domain unless clearly stated otherwise. The Library of Congress does not control the content posted. Nevertheless, the Library of Congress may monitor any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove content for any reason whatever, without consent. Gratuitous links to sites are viewed as spam and may result in removed comments. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on the Library site. Read our Comment and Posting Policy.

Social Security

It is difficult to fix limits to a discussion of social welfare in the United States. This is primarily because social welfare is such an all-embracing concept. It is also because the application of this concept in a pluralistic society and a Federal-State system of government, such as we have in the United States, is so varied and complex.

Many people speak of social welfare as meaning the good life for all members of society. This, of course, has been a dream of religious leaders, philosophers, and statesmen since the dawn of civilization. However, as Arnold Toynbee has said the twentieth century may well be remembered not as the bloodiest century in history, but as the first century in which people dared to thirds it practicable to make the benefits of civilization available for the whole human race.

At the other extreme, in the United States at least, the man on the street may use the expression in a very narrow sense when he speaks of "being on welfare." He, of course, is thinking only of the receipt of public aid by indigent persons.

In this discussion, we shall not attempt to cover all programs that may indirectly contribute to social welfare, but only those programs which are directly concerned with the economic and social well-being of individuals and families. In doing' so, we shall discuss both governmental and non-governmental programs, but concentrate largely on the governmental programs.

Social Security as Social Welfare

In the United States, the term "social security" is used to cover a large portion of the field of social welfare. This term first came into general use in the United States in 1935, during the Great Depression, when the Social Security Act was passed. It quickly achieved world-wide usage. It was included in the Atlantic Charter, signed by the President of the United States and the Prime Minister of Great Britain on August 14, 1941, and later adhered to in the Declaration of Philadelphia by twenty-six Allied governments at the International Labor Conference in 1944. It has been included in the constitution of many of the new nations which cane into existence after World War II as a major responsibility and objective.

The term "social security" has sometimes been used synonymously with "social welfare" in its widest sense. It is also used in a more restricted sense to mean a government program designed to prevent destitution by providing protection against major personal economic hazards such as unemployment, sickness, invalidity, old age, and the death of the breadwinner. In this sense, social security is primarily an income maintenance program which, in addition to providing cash benefits, may be accompanied by constructive social services to prevent or mitigate the effect of these hazards.

It is in this more restricted sense that the term "social security" is properly used in the United States. Most workers here use it to mean the program of Federal Old-Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance (OASDI) which covers more than 9 out of every 10 workers and their families and is administered nation-wide by the U.S. Social Security Administration. "Social security" and OASDI have become synonymous because, for one thing, the U.S. worker contributes directly from his regular earnings to pay for his protection under this program, and, for another, its history of nearly a quarter of century uninterrupted benefit payments and regular improvements to meet changing needs for protection have brought him to depend on the program as the basic protection for himself and his family in the event of lost income because of retirement, death, or invalidity.

"Social security," as used with reference to the Social Security Act in the United States also encompasses some of what we call "welfare" or "needs" or "assistance" programs. These are programs of grants to States for aid and services to needy families with children, maternal and child welfare, aid to the blind, aid to the permanently and totally disabled, and medical assistance to the aged. The term also encompasses programs of unemployment benefits to be administered by the States, and unemployment benefits for Federal employees and ex-servicemen. In addition, the term is frequently used in referring to programs not encompassed by the Social Security Act such as Workmen's Compensation (Employment Accident Insurance) administered by every State and at the Federal level for Federal employees, maritime workers and workers in interstate commerce, as well as programs of temporary cash sickness benefits in four States.

Now over 100 countries have put into effect programs they call social security which provide protection against one or more of the hazards just mentioned. Many of these progress have been in existence far longer than the one in the United States.

Other Government Programs as Social Welfare

Besides the government programs contained in the Social Security Act itself and the other Federal and State government programs in the United States which are properly classified as social security programs, there are many other government programs in the United States that fall within the broader field of social welfare. Certainly veterans' benefits, public health and medical programs, child welfare services, school lunches, food stamps, surplus food distribution, slum clearance and public housing should be included.

Education as Social Welfare

In the United States, public education is not usually thought of as a social welfare activity, probably because it is taken so much for granted, having existed for 125 years. However, in other countries where public education is a much more recent development and at the United Nations it is usually included as falling within the social welfare field.

Private Efforts as Social Welfare

Besides all the government programs in the field of social welfare, there are many non-governmental programs. The two most important kinds of non-governmental welfare programs are those supported by private philanthropy and those which grow out of the employer-employee relationship (which are usually referred to as "fringe benefits").


Probably the best way to measure the magnitude, character and growth of public expenditures for social welfare in the United States is to relate these expenditures to the gross national product. As late as 1929, the total public expenditures for social welfare, exclusive of veterans' programs and education, were less than 1 % of the gross national product. If we include public education, we find that now the Federal, State and local governments in the United States are spending about 12% for social welfare.

Effect of Chances in Public Awareness

The belated development of large-scale governmental programs in the field of social welfare was due to the fact that during the 1920's the American people did not realize that, while life in the United States had become safer and more prosperous, living had become less secure. By 1929 the United States was predominantly an urban and industrialized nation. Free land had not been available for forty years. The self-sufficient family and community had been largely superseded by large commercial and industrial enterprises whose employees were dependent upon their pay-check for a living. The immediate family and neighborhood had become less adequate for helping people in trouble.

It was not until the Great Depression of the 1930's that the nation as a whole became aware of the serious social consequences of the great economic changes that had taken place. The onset of the depression had the two-fold effect of increasing the need for public aid and reducing the gross national product, so that the percentage spent for social welfare had increased greatly by 1934-5. World War II, which brought full employment, reduced the need for public aid and the percentage fell accordingly.

It will be noted that the total public expenditures for social welfare, increased ten-fold from 1934-35 to 1962-3, in dollar amount, but only from 9.3% to 11.7% as a percentage of the gross national product. But there was a great change in the proportion represented by public aid and the social insurances. The former (which includes direct relief and work relief) declined from 4.4% to .9%, and the latter increased from .6% to 4.5%. This was not only because 1934-1935 represented the depth of the Great Depression, but also because in 1962-3 the social insurance prevented a great amount of destitution which would otherwise have required public aid.

Comparison of Federal and State Expenditures

A very important characteristic of all these public social welfare programs, is whether the program is carried on by the Federal government itself, or by the State and local governments. Many of the programs are financed jointly by the Federal and State governments.

It will be observed that both in 1934-5 and in 1962-3 the total expenditures by the Federal government and by the State and local governments were approximately equal. However, as regards the Federal government, a large part of the increase between these two dates was for the social insurances, public health and medical services, and veterans' programs. As regards the State and local governments, a large part of the increase was for public education.

If we look at the proportion of the expenditures for each program, we find that the Federal government now pays 75.9% of the cost of social insurance instead of 25.8% in 1934-5. The proportion of public aid paid by the Federal government has declined from 79.2% to 55.8%. Moreover, the proportion paid by the Federal government now is in the form of grants to the States and not direct payments to individuals. As regards public health and medical services, we find that the Federal government now pays 45.4% of the cost instead of 11.8% in 1934-5. But the proportion of the cost of public education paid by the State and local governments is still high, namely 92.5%, as compared with 93.6% in 1934-35.

It will be noted that no expenditures for social insurance are shown for 1912-13. Actually there were some negligible expenditures. The United States Employees Compensation Act was passed in 1908 covering work injuries sustained by Federal employees. Nine States had also passed workmen's compensation laws in 1911, but not all of them were actually in effect. A number of States and many local units of government had established retirement systems for their employees. However, expenditures for all of these forms of social insurance constituted less than 0.05% of Gross National Product and are, therefore, not shown.

The public aid expenditures for the periods 1912-13 and 1928-29 were all made by the State and local governments. In 1912-13, these expenditures consisted almost entirely of the cost of maintaining "poor houses" and providing assistance in kind for indigents living outside these poor houses.

By 1928-29 these expenditures also included cash assistance for certain groups in the population, namely the needy aged, the needy blind, and dependent children. This assistance was provided under State laws.

These State laws were usually referred to as "old age pensions," "blind pensions," and "mothers' pensions," although the payments were made only to needy persons. They represented a great advance in the humane treatment of these groups of needy persons. However, it is important to note that they differ fundamentally from social insurance which provides benefits to workers suffering loss of income from unemployment, disability, or old age retirement without subjecting them to a means test.


The most prominent feature of the American social welfare field is social security, if we exclude public education which, as stated at the outset, is not regarded as a phase of social welfare in the United States. Prior to the passage of the Social Security Act in 1935, there was practically no permanent Federal legislation in the field of social welfare. This was due to two reasons. Basically, it was because the American people did not feel the need for their Federal government to engage in social welfare activities. It was also due to the fact that the United States Supreme Court had interpreted the Federal Constitution as precluding such activities.

However, the great depression shocked the Nation into a realization that only the Federal government could cope with this National catastrophe. One out of every three workers was unemployed. One out of every five persons had to seek public aid to stay alive.

The Initial Role of the Federal Government

First the Federal government made loans to the States to help cover the cost of emergency relief. But the Congressional appropriation for this purpose, made in 1932, was exhausted by March 1933. The new administration coming into office at that time then embarked on a nation-wide program of out-right grants to the States for emergency relief to unemployable persons and a Federal work-relief program for employable persons.

The Social Security Act of 1935

The new Administration also proceeded to develop a long-range permanent social welfare program which would eventually supercede the emergency program. President Roosevelt instructed his advisers to follow two basic principles in developing this program: 1. Rely to the maximum extent on the States to administer the program 2. Rely to the maximum extent on contributory social insurance for protection against destitution.

By contributory social insurance, the President meant a system under which contributions and benefits were related to past earnings. He was familiar with workmen's compensation which possessed this characteristic. The American workmen' s compensation laws had been modeled after similar European laws which had been in existence for many years.

The Social Security Act of 1935 is based upon the two basic principles laid down by the President. Of ten separate programs included in the Social Security Act, nine are administered by the States, with Federal grants to cover a large proportion of the cost. Likewise, the Social Security Act included two types of contributory social insurance: old-age retirement insurance and unemployment insurance.

Old-Age Insurance (now Old-Age Survivors and Disability Insurance)

The old-age retirement system (which subsequently was expanded to include survivors' benefits and disability benefits) is operated directly by the Federal government. Under the original program, only employees in commerce and industry were covered and coverage was compulsory. In 1950 and subsequent years, coverage was extended to the non-agricultural self-employed, including most professionals and to both the self-employed and workers in agriculture.

Benefits under the original program were payable only to workers at age 65 who retired after 1941. But in 1939, the program was revised and expanded to provide benefits for wives and children of retired workers, and for widows, children and dependent parents of deceased workers. The first benefits became payable to persons who qualified in January, 1940. A death benefit to help defray the funeral expenses of the worker was also added. In 1950 benefits were made available to dependent husbands and widowers of female workers. In 1954, a disability freeze (similar to a waiver of premium) for the permanently and totally disabled was instituted and in 1956, cash disability benefits provisions were added.

Unemployment Insurance

The unemployment insurance system is federal-state in character. All the States were induced to pass unemployment insurance laws because the Social Security Act included a Federal Unemployment Tax on employers' payrolls. If a State passed an unemployment insurance law, an employer was permitted a credit up to 90% of the Federal tax for contributions made under the State law. The old-age retirement system is completely Federal in character because the actuaries believed that the great movement of workers across State lines made a State by State system unfeasible.

Public Assistance

The two social insurance systems were intended to provide a first line of defense against the two causes of destitution which were recognized as most important at that time. However, it was realized that it would be many years before a contributory old-age insurance system could pay sizable benefits based upon past earnings. Therefore, the Social Security Act also provided for Federal grants to the States to enable them to pay cash assistance to persons over 65 years of age, based upon their needs. Thirty States and Territories already had old age assistance laws on their statute books. However, most of these laws provided for grants to the local units of government and were permissive in character. The result was that in only 10 States were they in State-wide effect.

Likewise 27 States had laws providing for cash payments to the needy blind. But most of these laws too provided for grants to the local units of government and a large number were permissive.

Forty-five States also had on their statute books laws providing for aid to dependent children, sometimes called "mothers' pensions." These laws provided for State aid to local government units to help finance this form of cash assistance based on need. As in the case of old age and blind assistance, most of these laws were optional on the part of the local units of government. The result was that these laws were actually in operation in less than half of the local units of government in these States.

The Social Security Act provided for Federal grants to the States for old age assistance, blind assistance and for aid to dependent children upon condition that a State actually put these laws in effect throughout the State. Practically all the States soon complied with this requirement.

Besides the two types of social insurance and the three types of public assistance, the Social Security Act provided for grants to the States to expand their public health programs, to expand their maternal and child welfare programs, and to expand their vocational rehabilitation programs.


As has already been mentioned, this great reliance upon the States to administer the provisions of the Social Security Act was due to the belief on the part of President Roosevelt, which was shared by most of his advisers, that this was desirable. It was felt that a nation-wide social welfare program affecting the daily lives of millions of people throughout the continent should provide opportunity for variation in its substantive provisions and in its administration, subject of course to the basic principles contained in the Federal law.

President Roosevelt's views had probably been influenced by his experience as a State Governor and perhaps by his acquaintance with James Bryce, the former British Ambassador to the United States and the author of a book entitled The American Commonwealth, who felt that the great strength of the American

Federal-State system was that the States constituted laboratories for experimentation. The President's reaction to a radical proposal of Upton Sinclair, who was a candidate for Governor in California was typical. Sinclair's proposal was known as EPIC, initials which stood for End Poverty in California. His comment was, "Perhaps they'll get EPIC in California. What difference, I ask you, would that make in Dutchess County, New York, or Lincoln County, Maine? The beauty of our state-federal system is that the people can experiment."

The Question of Constitutionality

There was also a very important constitutional reason why maximum reliance should be placed on State action. Under the Federal Constitution, the Federal government possesses only those powers which are delegated to it by the states, such as the power to regulate interstate commerce and to levy taxes. Two Federal child labor laws had been declared unconstitutional by the Unites States Supreme Court, the first as not authorized under the interstate commerce clause and the second as an invalid exercise of the taxing power. Even while the Social Security Act was being considered by Congress in 1935, a Federal Railroad Retirement Act was declared unconstitutional as an invalid exercise of the power to regulate interstate commerce.

Fortunately, when the Social Security Act reached the United States Supreme Court in 1937, the court adopted a liberal interpretation of what is known as "the welfare clause" in the Federal Constitution which reads, "The Congress shall have the power to lay and collect taxes, duties, imposts and excises, to pay the debts and provide for the common defense and general welfare of the United Stated."

In a land-mark opinion upholding the constitutionality of the Social Security Act, Justice Cardozo wrote:

"Congress may spend money in aid of the 'general welfare.' There have been great statesmen in our history who have stood for other views. We will not resurrect the contest. It is now settled by decision. . .

"The purge of the nation-wide calamity that began in 1929 has taught us many lessons. Not the least is the solidarity of interests that may once have seemed to be divided. . . Spreading from state to state, unemployment is an ill not particular but general, which may be checked, if Congress so determines, by the resources of the Nation. If this can have been doubtful until now, our ruling today. . . has set the doubt at rest. . . The hope behind this statute is to save men and women from the rigors of the poorhouse as well as from the haunting fear that such a lot awaits them when the Journey's end is near. . ."


The Social Security has been substantially improved by Congress on 8 different occasions since 1935. The coverage of the Federal-State unemployment insurance system has been extended to include 80% of all employed wage and salary workers. Benefits are now being paid to 1,500,000 temporarily unemployed workers totaling 200 million dollars a month. The coverage of the Federal old-age survivors and disability insurance system has been extended to include 90% of the entire labor force including the self-employed. Monthly benefits are now being paid to 19 million totally disabled and retired workers, and their dependents, and to the widows, orphans, and parents of deceased workers. These benefits total 1 billion dollars a month.

The public assistance provisions of the Social Security Act have been improved to include Federal grants to needy disabled persons who do not qualify for social insurance benefits or whose insurance benefits are not adequate. The percentage of the cost of this category and the other categories of public assistance borne by the Federal government has been greatly increased. The Federal grants to the States for maternal and child welfare have also been greatly increased, and Federal grants are now available to the States to provide medical assistance to the indigent aged.


Besides the social Insurances included in the Social Security Act, there are two other Federal social insurance systems covering railroad workers. One is the Railroad Retirement Act. As previously stated, the first such Act, passed in 1934, had been declared unconstitutional in 1935. However, another one was passed in 1935. This law provided benefits for permanent total disability as well as old age retirement. The Railroad Retirement Act and the Old-Age Survivors and Disability insurance system are coordinated to provide continuing protection to workers moving into or out of the railroad industry.

There is also a Railroad Unemployment Insurance Act that provides benefits for temporary disability as well as unemployment. This Federal system operates separately from the State unemployment insurance systems.


Federal civilian and military personnel in active service have separate retirement, sickness, and survivors' benefit systems. There is also a vast Federal program of veterans' benefits providing pensions and other cash benefits, as well as extensive medical services.

Unemployment insurance benefits are also provided for Federal civilian and military personnel. These benefits are paid in accordance with the provisions of the State unemployment insurance in effect where the applicant files his claim, but the cost is borne by the Federal government.

As regards State activities in the field of social welfare, these have grown along with those of the Federal government. As we have seen, the Federal government helps finance these activities to a considerable extent. As regards the social insurances, all States now have workmen's compensation and unemployment insurance laws. Four of the States also have temporary disability insurance laws.

All of the States have in effect public assistance programs for the needy aged, the needy blind and dependent children. All except one have in effect public assistance for needy disabled persons. About half have in effect a newer public assistance program for which Federal grants were first made available in 1961. This program extends the aid to dependent children to include children in need of aid because of the unemployment of a parent. Previously Federal grants had been available only if a child was in need of aid because of the death, disability or desertion of a parent. Of course, the law in all of the States provides for assistance to needy persons who do not fall within the categories for which Federal grants are available in many cases, these are financed entirely by local funds.

As previously pointed out, State and local government expenditures for public health and medical care have increased greatly. The Federal government shares in the cost of most of these expenditures. However, the States and local government units bear almost all of the coat of institutional care of the mentally ill.


Public health and vocational rehabilitation are no longer included in the Social Security Act, but are in separate Federal laws. As has already been mentioned, the increase in the expenditures of the Federal government for public health and medical care since 1934-35 has been tremendous. Most of the increase in public health expenditures has been for research. The Federal government now spends a billion dollars for this purpose which is two-thirds of the cost of all the health research carried on in this country. However, there has also been a considerable increase in Federal grants to the States for public health activities.

Practically all of the increase since 1934-35 in direct Federal medical care expenditures, is for military personnel and their dependents. However, beginning in 1946, the Federal government has been making grants to the States, local units of government, and non-profit organizations for the construction of hospital and other medical facilities. These grants have increased year by year and now total a half-billion dollars a year. Moreover, medical care expenditures by the Federal government under "Veterans Programs" have increased during this period from $59 million to more than $1 billion.


Health Insurance

It should be noted that in the United States there is no public health insurance system or general health service, as there are in two-thirds of the nations having a social security program. Of course, medical care, as well as cash benefits, is provided under workmen's compensation laws in the case of work-injuries. In addition, indigents, members of the armed forces and their dependents, and veterans are provided medical care at public expense. All told, if we also include medical research, about one-fourth of the nation's medical bill is paid for out of public funds. Another fourth is covered by private insurance.

Maternity Benefits

Although there is no general program of maternity benefits in the United States, millions of women are eligible for maternity benefits through health and insurance programs provided under voluntary plans or, in some cases, through legislative action. These benefits take the form of cash payments to meet part or all of the expense of obstetrical care or they may provide medical and hospital services. For women workers they may also include maternity leave provisions and cash payments to compensate in part for loss of wages during disability.

Federal legislation provides benefits for women railroad workers, women federal employees, women in military service, and wives of servicemen. Federal, State, and local laws provide assistance for women who are "medically needy." But the trend in the United Sautes is toward voluntary protection, and this is provided for under informal employer policies, through collective bargaining agreements, or through private subscription to commercial insurance plans.

Family Allowances

Another feature which is not included in the social welfare program of the United States is what is called family or children's allowances. About half of all the nations of the world have such a program. Probably the chief reason that the United States does not is that the general high level of wages in this country does not create the same need for supplementation for workers with families. In any event, employers in this country have never proposed family allowances in lieu of a general wage increase as has been true in a number of other countries. Nor has organized labor ever shown any interest whatsoever in family allowances, either as a result of collective bargaining or as a result of legislation.

Another reason that there has been no interest in family allowances is that an aid to dependent children program has developed in this country to a far greater extent than anywhere else, although it is true that it does not apply to the normal family where the breadwinner is working.


There can be no question that in the United States governmental programs in the field of social welfare are more important than non-governmental programs in term of expenditures and individuals affected. However, it would be a mistake not to recognize the vital role of non-governmental social agencies.


Throughout our history, religious organizations have engaged in philanthropic activities such as providing assistance to the needy and caring for dependent and neglected children. Secular philanthropic organizations came into existence early in the 19th century, and in the 1870's, charity organization societies were established in the larger cities to deal more effectively with social needs arising out of increasing urbanization.

In 1929, at the outset of the Great Depression, it was hoped that the private welfare agencies would be able to meet the needs of the increasing number of unemployed workers. This proved not to be the case. Soon the States and then the Federal government was obliged to provide funds to assist local public relief agencies.

As the local, State and Federal governments assumed responsibility for providing cash assistance to indigent persons, the non-governmental welfare agencies devoted most of their efforts to providing health and welfare services (rather than cash assistance) for individuals and families. These services are not limited to the indigent. They include institutional care, hospital nursing services, recreational activities, family counselling and other types of services. The total expenditures of three non-governmental agencies for health and welfare activities have steadily increased in amount and as a percentage of the gross national product. They now aggregate about two and a half billion dollars, and constitute a valuable supplement to governmental welfare activities.

Employment Fringe Benefits

Beside philanthropy, another valuable supplement to governmental welfare activities are the health and welfare plans based on the employer-employee relationship. These are usually referred to as "fringe benefits" in the United States. They include life insurance, health insurance. disability benefits, sick-leave, supplemental unemployment benefits, and retirement benefits. Prior to 1935, the number of employee benefit plans was very small, about 1,000 covering 2,600,000 workers (exclusive of those covered by life insurance policies). By 1962, 43 million employees or 71% of all employees in the country, plus 68 million dependents were covered under such plans. The benefits paid in 1962 amounted to $9,769,000,000. There are a number of reasons accounting for this dramatic growth. The Social Security Act of 1935 facilitated the establishment of private pension plans on a sound actuarial basis. High corporation taxes coupled with allowance of explorer contributions as a deduction permitted the establishment at a low net cost. The "wag-freeze" during World War II and the Korean War, which permitted increased compensation in the form of "fringe benefits" and labor union demands for "fringe benefits," were other reasons.

Employers pay about half of the cost of health and welfare benefits, exclusive of retirement benefits. They pay about 85% of the cost of retirement benefits.

It is apparent from the foregoing discussion that the development of social welfare programs in the United States has encompassed both governmental and non-governmental efforts. In so doing, it has been demonstrated that there need be no conflict between the two. Voluntary welfare organizations recognize that the assumption by government of the obligation to provide financial aid to indigent people has enabled them to use their resources more effectively in providing constructive social services. Likewise, the large life insurance companies have used successfully the basic protection afforded by the Old-Age, Survivors and Disability Insurance system to promote the sale of additional protection.

It is also apparent that this development has come about as the result of felt needs--on a pragmatic basis rather than on an ideological basis. However, it would be unfortunate if we did not recognize that it constitutes an expression of the paramount objective of democratic government--the welfare of people. While judges debated for 150 years as to the respective role of the Federal and State governments in achieving this objective, it is well to recall that the very first sentence of the Federal Constitution reads as follows: "We the People of the United States in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquillity, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this CONSTITUTION for the United States of America."

The underlined words indicate that the founding fathers recognized that a democracy had an affirmative obligation to promote both the liberty and the welfare of the people. Thus, their concept of liberty was a positive one of equal opportunity for all which can only be achieved through promoting the general welfare.

Elections and constituencies

The king gave 40 day's notice before parliament met to allow sheriffs to organise the county and borough elections.

In most cases, however, the 'elections' bore little resemblance to modern day notions of parliamentary democracy.

The Peasants' Revolt was a direct consequence of parliamentary consent to a poll tax of one-shilling per head.

MPs were usually selected by the mutual agreement of a small number of the constituency's elite. This led occasionally to corruption. Records show in 1362 that the deputies of the sheriff of Lancashire were found to have simply returned themselves to parliament without the county's assent.

MPs generally took their responsibilities to their constituents seriously. In 1328, for example, the representatives of London twice wrote home from the York parliament to inform the city of the progress of their negotiations with the crown.

On the otherhand, the representatives were not always eager to face the consequences of their own decisions, as it was a regular condition of a parliamentary grant of taxation that the MPs themselves would not be appointed to collect the money when they returned home.

Their fears were sometimes realised. The 'Peasants' Revolt' of 1381 was a direct consequence of the poll tax levied at one-shilling per head which MPs had consented to in the parliament of November 1380.

Taxation Structure

The desire for more efficient tax collection was one of the major causes for French administrative and royal centralization. The taille, a direct land tax on the peasantry and non-nobles, became a major source of royal income. Exempted from the taille were clergy and nobles (except for non-noble lands they held in “pays d’état” see below), officers of the crown, military personnel, magistrates, university professors and students, and certain cities (“villes franches”) such as Paris. Peasants and nobles alike were required to pay one-tenth of their income or produce to the church (the tithe).Although exempted from the taille, the church was required to pay the crown a tax called the “free gift,” which it collected from its office holders at roughly 1/20 the price of the office.

There were three kinds of provinces: the “pays d’élection,” the “pays d’état,” and the “pays d’imposition.” In the “pays d’élection” (the longest held possessions of the French crown) the assessment and collection of taxes were originally trusted to elected officials, but later these positions were bought. The tax was generally “personal,” which meant it was attached to non-noble individuals. In the “pays d’état” (provinces with provincial estates), tax assessment was established by local councils and the tax was generally “real,” which meant that it was attached to non-noble lands (nobles possessing such lands were required to pay taxes on them). “Pays d’imposition” were recently conquered lands that had their own local historical institutions, although taxation was overseen by the royal administrator.

In the decades leading to the French Revolution, peasants paid a land tax to the state (the taille) and a 5% property tax (the vingtième see below). All paid a tax on the number of people in the family (capitation), depending on the status of the taxpayer (from poor to prince). Further royal and seigneurial obligations might be paid in several ways: in labor, in kind, or rarely, in coin. Peasants were also obligated to their landlords for rent in cash, a payment related to their amount of annual production, and taxes on the use of the nobles’ mills, wine-presses, and bakeries.

Caricature showing the Third Estate carrying the First and Second Estates on its back, Bibliothèque Nationale de France, c. 1788.

The tax system in pre-revolutionary France largely exempted the nobles and the clergy from taxes. The tax burden therefore devolved to the peasants, wage-earners, and the professional and business classes, also known as the Third Estate. Further, people from less-privileged walks of life were blocked from acquiring even petty positions of power in the regime, which caused further resentment.

Our Grads Work at Industry Leading Companies

Providing Accessible Education

At WGU, we believe that while talent is universal, access to opportunity is not. That's why we have made a commitment to increase access to education, making it possible for individuals to improve their lives and the lives of their families by earning a college degree online. To help reach this goal, we are offering the Online Access Scholarship.

WGU has partnered with T-Mobile for the Online Access scholarship to provide the coverage, capacity, and devices needed to empower students to participate in higher education online. Learn more about our accessibility initiatives and the ways WGU is breaking barriers in education below.


Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article.

Sargon, byname Sargon of Akkad, (flourished 23rd century bce ), ancient Mesopotamian ruler (reigned c. 2334–2279 bce ) who was one of the earliest of the world’s great empire builders, conquering all of southern Mesopotamia as well as parts of Syria, Anatolia, and Elam (western Iran). He established the region’s first Semitic dynasty and was considered the founder of the Mesopotamian military tradition.

Sargon is known almost entirely from the legends and tales that followed his reputation through 2,000 years of cuneiform Mesopotamian history, and not from documents that were written during his lifetime. The lack of contemporary record is explained by the fact that the capital city of Agade (Akkad), which he built, has never been located and excavated. It was destroyed at the end of the dynasty that Sargon founded and was never again inhabited, at least under the name of Agade.

According to a folktale, Sargon was a self-made man of humble origins a gardener, having found him as a baby floating in a basket on the river, brought him up in his own calling. His father is unknown his own name during his childhood is also unknown his mother is said to have been a priestess in a town on the middle Euphrates. Rising, therefore, without the help of influential relations, he attained the post of cupbearer to the ruler of the city of Kish, in the north of the ancient land of Sumer. The event that brought him to supremacy was the defeat of Lugalzaggisi of Uruk (biblical Erech, in central Sumer). Lugalzaggisi had already united the city-states of Sumer by defeating each in turn and claimed to rule the lands not only of the Sumerian city-states but also those as far west as the Mediterranean. Thus, Sargon became king over all of southern Mesopotamia, the first great ruler for whom, rather than Sumerian, the Semitic tongue known as Akkadian was natural from birth, although some earlier kings with Semitic names are recorded in the Sumerian king list. Victory was ensured, however, only by numerous battles, since each city hoped to regain its independence from Lugalzaggisi without submitting to the new overlord. It may have been before these exploits, when he was gathering followers and an army, that Sargon named himself Sharru-kin (“Rightful King”) in support of an accession not achieved in an old-established city through hereditary succession. Historical records are still so meagre, however, that there is a complete gap in information relating to this period.

Not content with dominating this area, his wish to secure favourable trade with Agade throughout the known world, together with an energetic temperament, led Sargon to defeat cities along the middle Euphrates to northern Syria and the silver-rich mountains of southern Anatolia. He also dominated Susa, capital city of the Elamites, in the Zagros Mountains of western Iran, where the only truly contemporary record of his reign has been uncovered. Such was his fame that some merchants in an Anatolian city, probably in central Turkey, begged him to intervene in a local quarrel, and, according to the legend, Sargon, with a band of warriors, made a fabulous journey to the still-unlocated city of Burushanda (Purshahanda), at the end of which little more than his appearance was needed to settle the dispute.

As the result of Sargon’s military prowess and ability to organize, as well as of the legacy of the Sumerian city-states that he had inherited by conquest and of previously existing trade of the old Sumerian city-states with other countries, commercial connections flourished with the Indus Valley, the coast of Oman, the islands and shores of the Persian Gulf, the lapis lazuli mines of Badakhshān, the cedars of Lebanon, the silver-rich Taurus Mountains, Cappadocia, Crete, and perhaps even Greece.

During Sargon’s rule Akkadian became adapted to the script that previously had been used in the Sumerian language, and the new spirit of calligraphy that is visible upon the clay tablets of this dynasty is also clearly seen on contemporary cylinder seals, with their beautifully arranged and executed scenes of mythology and festive life. Even if this new artistic feeling is not necessarily to be attributed directly to the personal influence of Sargon, it shows that, in his new capital, military and economic values were not alone important.

Because contemporary record is lacking, no sequence can be given for the events of his reign. Neither the number of years during which he lived nor the point in time at which he ruled can be fixed exactly 2334 bce is now given as a date on which to hang the beginning of the dynasty of Agade, and, according to the Sumerian king list, he was king for 56 years.

The latter part of his reign was troubled with rebellions, which later literature ascribes, predictably enough, to sacrilegious acts that he is supposed to have committed but this can be discounted as the standard cause assigned to all disasters by Sumerians and Akkadians alike. The troubles, in fact, were probably caused by the inability of one man, however energetic, to control so vast an empire without a developed and well-tried administration. There is no evidence to suggest that he was particularly harsh, nor that the Sumerians disliked him for being a Semite. The empire did not collapse totally, for Sargon’s successors were able to control their legacy, and later generations thought of him as being perhaps the greatest name in their history.

Texas History Timeline

Offers a chronological timeline of important dates, events, and milestones in Texas history.

Corn farmers settle near the Presidio in the area where the Rio Grande and Rio Conchos join around 1500 BCE. It is now believed to be the oldest continuously cultivated farmland in Texas. From 800-1500 BCE, the farmers and hunters build and occupy stone dwellings located southeast of Perryton on the northern edge of the Panhandle. Today this area is called the Buried City. By 1400 CE Texas composed of numerous small tribes, the Caddo Confederacy establishes a agriculture-based civilization in east Texas. Today the Caddo Nation is a federally recognized tribe with its capital in Binger, Oklahoma.

Spanish missionaries were the first European settlers in Texas, founding San Antonio in 1718. Hostile natives and isolation from other Spanish colonies kept Texas sparsely populated until following the Revolutionary War and the War of Mexican Independence, when the newly established Mexican government began to allow settlers from the U.S. to claim land there. Texas negotiated with the U.S. to join the union in 1845.

16th Century Texas History Timeline

Early European Exploration and Settlement

1519 - Mid - Spanish explorer Alonso Alvarez de Pineda maps Texas coastline.
1528- Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca shipwrecked near Galveston begin exploration.
1541 - Francisco Vázquez de Coronado crosses the Texas Panhandle in search of in search of the seven cities of Cibola.

1554 - Coronado dies. He is one of the first white men to explore Texas, and leader of one of 20 Spanish explorations of the area.
1598 - April 30 - Thanksgiving is held near present-day El Paso by Juan de Onate, the members of his expedition and natives of the region.

17th Century Texas History Timeline

1629 - Jumano Indians requested Spanish missionaries from New Mexico to travel to the vicinity of present-day San Angelo and instruct the Jumanos about Christianity.

1682 - First Spanish mission, Corpus Christi de la Isleta, is established a few miles from present-day El Paso.

1685 - February 16 - French explorer Rene-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle, looking for the mouth of the Mississippi River, lands in Texas by mistake. He establishes a colony, Fort St. Louis, on Garcitas Creek in present-day Victoria County.

March 19, 1687 - La Salle is killed by several of his own men at an unknown East Texas location.

January 1688 - Colonists at Fort St. Louis not felled by Indians, disease, poisonous snakes and malnutrition are finished off by Karankawa Indians.

1689 - April 2 - Spanish Gen. Alonso de Leon's expedition finds the remains of Fort St. Louis. Fearing French intentions to lay claim to Spanish territory, the Spanish begin establishing missions and settlements in East Texas.
1690 - May - First East Texas mission under construction, San Francisco de los Tejas, near present-day Weches, Houston Co. The mission is closed in 1693.

18th Century Texas History Timeline

1716-1789 - Throughout the 18th Century, Spain established Catholic missions in Texas, and the towns of San Antonio, Goliad and Nacogdoches.

1716 - Spanish build a presidio, Nuestra Senora de los Dolores de los Tejas, to protect the East Texas missions.
1718 -May 1 - San Antonio de Valero mission, known as the Alamo was the chapel, is founded in San Antonio.
1720 -February - San Jose y San Miguel de Aguayo mission founded near San Antonio de Valero.
1731 -

  • 3 East Texas missions moved to San Antonio because of economic troubles, and named Nuestra Senora de la Purisima Concepcion de Acuna, San Francisco de la Espada and San Juan Capistrano.
  • March 7 - 55 Canary Islanders arrive in San Antonio to establish a civilian settlement, San Fernando de Bexar.
  • Aug. 1 - First election held in Texas, voters choose officials of the municipal government of San Fernando.

1745 - Missions at San Antonio are producing thousands of pounds of cotton annually.

1758 - March 16 - Santa Cruz de San Sabá mission near present-day Menard destroyed and eight residents killed by Comanches and their allies.

1759 - August - Spanish troops on a retaliatory raid are defeated by Indian residents of a large encampment at Spanish Fort in present-day Montague County.

1766 - Sept. 4 - Texas' first recorded hurricane strikes near Galveston.

1779 - Group of settlers led by Antonio Gil Ybarbo (sometimes spelled Ibarvo or Y'barvo) establishes a civilian community near an abandoned mission site the new town is called Nacogdoches.

19th Century Texas History Timeline

1810 - Sept. 16 - Father Miguel Hidalgo y Costillo and several hundred of his parishioners seize the prison at Dolores, Mexico, beginning Mexico's struggle for independence from Spain.

1812 -August 8 - About 130-men strong, the Gutierrez-Magee Expedition crossed the Sabine from Louisiana in a rebel movement against Spanish rule in Texas.

  • Texas' first newspaper, Gaceta de Texas, founded by Jose Alvarez de Toledo in Nacogdoches.
  • Dec. 26 - Spanish government grants Moses Austin permission to establish a colony of Anglo-Americans in the Texas area. When he dies the following June, his son, Stephen F. Austin, receives authority to continue the colonizing effort.

1814 - June- Moses Austin dies, his son, Stephen F. Austin, receives authority to continue the colonizing effort.

1817-1820 - Jean Laffite occupied Galveston Island and used it as a base for his smuggling and privateering.

1818 - September 12 - A hurricane wrecks the fleet of pirate Jean Lafitte in Galveston.

  • Aug. 24 - Mexico gains independence from Spain.
  • October 13 Jane Long gives birth to the first Anglo child born in Texas, a girl named Mary James.

1823 - Jan. 3 - Stephen F. Austin received a grant from the Mexican government and began colonization in the region of the Brazos River. Mexican officials approve Austin's plan to bring three hundred families into his colony. This group becomes known as the "Old Three Hundred."

Mid-1824 - Constitution of 1824 gave Mexico a republican form of government. It failed to define the rights of the states within the republic, including Texas

1826 - Dec. 21 - The Declaration of Independence of the republic of Fredonia is signed at Nacogdoches.

1827- January 31 - This so-called Fredonian Rebellion is an attempt by empresario Haden Edwards to separate his colony from Mexico. The rebels flee when approached by Mexican troops.

1829 - October - First of several large groups of Irish immigrants arrive to settle in South Texas.

1830 - April 6 - Mexican government stops legal immigration into Texas from the United States except in special cases. Relations between Anglo settlers and the Mexican government deteriorate.

1831 - Johann Friedrich Ernst, his wife and five children are the first German family to arrive in Texas, settling in present-day Austin County.

Revolution and the Republic of Texas

1832 - June 26 - First bloodshed of the Texas Revolution takes place at Velasco when Texans, transporting a cannon from Brazoria to Anahuac, are challenged by Mexican forces at Velasco. The Mexicans surrender on June 29.

  • Oct. 2 - Mexican troops attempt to retrieve a cannon that had been given to Gonzales colonists for protection from Indian attack. The skirmish that ensues as Gonzales residents dare the Mexicans to "come and take it" is considered the opening battle of the Texas Revolution.
  • Oct. 10 - Gail Borden begins publishing the newspaper "Telegraph and Texas Register" at San Felipe de Austin.
  • Nov. 1 - A "consultation" convenes at San Felipe on Nov. 7 the delegates agree to establish a provisional government.
  • Nov. 24 - The Texas Rangers organization is officially established by Texas' provisional government. Although Stephen F. Austin had hired 10 frontiersmen as "rangers" to help protect his colonists against Indian raids in 1823, not until 1835 was the law-enforcement group formally organized.
  • March 2 - Texas Declaration of Independence is adopted at Washington-on-the-Brazos.
  • March 6 - 3-day siege of the Alamo by Mexican troops led by Gen. Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna ends on this day with a battle in which all remaining defenders are killed.
  • March 10 - Sam Houston abandons Gonzales and retreats eastward to avoid the advancing Mexican army. Panicky settlers in the area flee as well in an exodus called the Runaway Scrape.
  • March 27 - About 350 Texan prisoners, including their commander James Fannin, are executed at Goliad by order of Santa Anna. An estimated 30 Texans escape.
  • April 21 - In a battle lasting 18 minutes, Texan troops led by Sam Houston defeat the Mexican army commanded by Santa Anna at San Jacinto near present-day Houston. Houston reports that 630 Mexican troops were killed and 730 were taken prisoner. Of the Texas troops, nine of a force of 910 were killed or mortally wounded, and 30 were less seriously wounded.
  • May 14 - Santa Anna and Texas' provisional president David Burnet sign two Treaties of Velasco - one public, the other secret - ending the Texas Revolution. The treaties were, however, violated by both sides. Texas' independence was not recognized by Mexico and Texas' boundary was not determined until the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican War, was signed in 1848.
  • Sept. 5 - Voters of the new republic choose their first elected officials: Sam Houston becomes president and Lorenzo de Zavala, vice president. The voters also overwhelmingly approve a referendum requesting annexation by the United States. US President Martin Van Buren refuses to consider it, however, citing fear of war with Mexico and constitutional scruples.
  • Oct. - The first Congress of the Republic of Texas convenes at Columbia.

1837 - Republic of Texas is officially recognized by the United States, and later by France, England, the Netherlands and Belgium.

1839 - Aug. 1 - First sale of town lots in the new capital of the Republic, which is named for Stephen F. Austin, is held.

  • March 19 - Comanches, led by a dozen chiefs, meet with officials of Texas government to negotiate a peace treaty. Believing the Comanches to have reneged on a promise to release all white prisoners, the Texans take the chiefs prisoner. During the Council House fight that follows, 35 Comanches are killed, as are seven Texans.
  • Aug. 5 - Near Hallettsville, Comanches, in retaliation for the Council House Fight, begin killing and looting their way across Central Texas. Texas Rangers and a volunteer army defeat the Comanches on Aug. 11 at Plum Creek near Lockhart.

1841 - June 20 - The Santa Fe Expedition, launched without Texas Congressional authorization by Pres. Mirabeau B. Lamar, leaves Central Texas on its way west to establish trade with and solidify Texas' claims to territory around Santa Fe. Members of group are taken prisoner by Mexican troops, marched to Mexico City and imprisoned. They are finally released in 1842.

1842 - The first seeds of large-scale German immigration to Texas are sown when a German society, the Adelsverein, purchases land for settlements in Central Texas.

Annexation and Statehood

  • February 1 - Baylor University is founded.
  • March 1 - US Congress passes a "Joint Resolution for Annexing Texas to the United States."
  • mid-March - The first of many large groups of Germans arrive in Central Texas, settling at New Braunfels.
  • July 4 - The Texas Constitutional Convention votes to accept the United States annexation proposal it drafts an Annexation Ordinance and State Constitution to submit to the voters of Texas.
  • Oct. 13 - Texas voters overwhelmingly approve annexation, the new state constitution and the annexation ordinance.
  • Dec. 29 - The US Congress approves, and President James K. Polk signs, the "Joint Resolution for the Admission of the State of Texas into the Union." Texas becomes the 28th state.
  • Feb. 19 - Formal transfer of government take place until this date.
  • May 8 - Battle of Palo Alto near Brownsville is first major battle of the two-year Mexican War.

1848 - Feb. 2 - Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo is signed, ending the War with Mexico and specifying the location of the international boundary.

  • Feb. 11 - The first railroad to actually begin operation in Texas is chartered by the state government. The Buffalo Bayou, Brazos and Colorado begins operation in 1853.
  • Nov. 25 - Texas' governor signs the Compromise of 1850, in which Texas gives up its claim to land that includes more than half of what is now New Mexico, about a third of Colorado, a corner of Oklahoma and a small portion of Wyoming in exchange for the United States' assumption of $10 million in debt Texas keeps its public lands.

1854 - Two reservations are established for Indians in West-Central Texas: one for Comanches on the Clear Fork of the Brazos in Throckmorton County, the other for more sedentary Indian groups, such as Tawakonis, Wacos and Tonkawas, near Fort Belknap in Young County.

  • March 27 - Col. Robert E. Lee arrives in San Antonio. He serves at Camp Cooper on the Comanche reservation beginning April 9. He returns to Washington for a short time, coming back to San Antonio and Fort Mason in February 1860.
  • April 29 - Fifty-three camels arrive at port of Indianola for a US Army experiment using them for pack animals in the arid areas of the Southwest.

1858 - Sept. 15 - Southern route of the Butterfield Overland Mail crosses Texas on its way between St. Louis, Mo., and the West Coast. Service discontinued in March 1861 at the outbreak of the Civil War.

  • July 13 - Violent clashes between Juan "Cheno" Cortina and Anglo lawmen begin in the Brownsville area in the Lower Rio Grande Valley. Texas Rangers and federal troops eventually halt the so-called "Cortina War" in 1875.
  • July - Indians on the West-Central Texas reservations are moved by the federal government to reservations in Indian Territory (now Oklahoma).

Secession and Civil War

  • Feb. 1 - The Secession Convention approves an ordinance withdrawing Texas from Union the action is ratified by the voters on Feb. 23 in a referendum vote. Secession is official on March 2.
  • Feb. 13 - Robert E. Lee is ordered to return to Washington from regimental headquarters at Fort Mason to assume command of the Union Army. Instead, Lee resigns his commission he assumes command of the Confederate Army by June 1862.
  • March 1 - Texas accepted as a state by the provisional government of the Confederate States of America, even before its secession from the Union is official.
  • March 5 - The Secession Convention approves an ordinance accepting Confederate statehood.
  • March 16 - Sam Houston resigns as governor in protest against secession
  • Aug. 10 - About 68 Union loyalists, mostly German immigrants from the area of Comfort, in Central Texas, start for Mexico in an attempt to reach US troops 19 are killed by Confederates on the Nueces River. Eight others are killed on Oct. 18 at the Rio Grande. Others drown attempting to swim the river. Their deaths are commemorated in Comfort by the Treue der Union (True to the Union) monument.
  • October - Forty-two men thought to be Union sympathizers are hanged at various times during October in Gainesville.

1865 - May 13 - The Battle of Palmito Ranch is fought near Brownsville, after the official end of the Civil War, because word of the war's end at Appomattox on April 9 has not yet reached troops in Texas.

Reconstruction to the 20th Century

  • June 19 - Gen. Gordon Granger arrives at Galveston to announce that slavery has been abolished, an event commemorated today by the festival known as Juneteenth.
  • Sept. - The Bureau of Refugees, Freedmen and Abandoned Lands (the Freedmen's Bureau) begins operating in Texas, charged with helping former slaves make the transition to freedom.
  • March 15 - The Constitutional Convention approves an ordinance to nullify the actions of the Secession Convention.
  • Aug. 20 - President Andrew Johnson issues a proclamation of peace between the United States and Texas.
  • Cattle drives, which had been occasional in the 1830s, sporadic during the 1840s and 1850s, and almost nonexistent during the Civil War, begin in earnest, mostly to markets and railheads in Midwest. They are at their peak for only about 20 years, until the proliferation of railroads makes them unnecessary.

1867-1870 - Congressional (or Military) Reconstruction replaces Presidential Reconstruction.

1868 - Large-scale irrigation begins in Texas when canals are built in the vicinity of Del Rio.

1869 - Nov. 30 - Texas voters approve a new state constitution.

  • March 30 - President Grant signs the act readmitting Texas to Congressional representation.
  • Edmund J. Davis becomes the first Republican governor of Texas.

1871 - May - Seven men in a wagon train are massacred at Salt Creek, about 20 miles west of Jacksboro, by Kiowas and Comanches led by chiefs Satanta, Big Tree, Satank and Eagle Heart.
1872 - Oct. - Construction begins on the Texas & Pacific Railway the 125-mile stretch between Longview and Dallas opens for service on July 1, 1873.

  • Black "Buffalo Soldiers" are first posted to Texas, eventually serving at virtually every frontier fort in West Texas from the Rio Grande to the Panhandle, as well as in other states.
  • Houston and Texas Central Railway reaches the Red River, connecting there with the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad and creating the first all-rail route from Texas to St. Louis and the East.
  • Jan. 17 - Inauguration of Democrat Richard Coke as governor marks the end of Reconstruction in Texas.
  • Sept. 28 - Col. Ranald Mackenzie leads the 4th US Cavalry in the Battle of Palo Duro Canyon, south of present-day Amarillo, an encounter that ends with the confinement of southern Plains Indians in reservations in Indian Territory. This makes possible the wholesale settlement of the western part of the state.
  • Feb. 15 - Present state constitution is adopted.
  • Oct. 4 - The Agricultural and Mechanical College, later Texas A&M University, opens at College Station, becoming the first public institution of higher learning in the state.
  • Charles Goodnight establishes the JA Ranch in Palo Duro Canyon, the first cattle ranch located in the Panhandle.

1877 - Sept. - The El Paso Salt War is the culmination of a long dispute caused by Anglos' attempts to take over salt-mining rights at the foot of Guadalupe Peak, a traditionally Mexican-American salt source.

1881 - Dec. 16 - The Texas & Pacific Railway reaches Sierra Blanca in West Texas, about 90 miles east of El Paso.

1883 - Sept. 15 - The University of Texas classes begin.

1884 - Fence-cutting wars prompt the Texas Legislature to pass a law making fence-cutting a felony.

1886 - Aug. 19-21 - Hurricane destroys or damages every house in the port of Indianola, finishing the job started by another storm 11 years earlier. Indianola is never rebuilt.

1888 - May 16 - Present state capitol is dedicated.

1891 - The Railroad Commission, proposed by Gov. James Hogg, is established by the Texas legislature to regulate freight rates and to establish rules for railroad operations.

1894 - June 9 - Oil is discovered at Corsicana a commercial field opens in 1896, becoming the first small step in Texas' rise as a major oil producer.

1898 - May 16 - Teddy Roosevelt arrives in San Antonio to recruit and train "Rough Riders" for the First Volunteer Cavalry to fight in the Spanish-American War in Cuba.

1898-1899 - Texas experiences its coldest winter on record.

20th Century Texas History Timeline

1900 - Sept. 8 - The "Great Hurricane," destroys much of Galveston and kills 6,000 people there.

1901 - Jan. 10 - Oil found by mining engineer Capt. A.F. Lucas at Spindletop near Beaumont catapults Texas into the petroleum age.

1902 - Poll tax becomes a requirement for voting.

1906 - Texans votes for US senator in the Democratic primary, although the Texas legislature retains ultimate appointment authority, primary voters can express their preferences.

1910 - March 2 - Lt. Benjamin D. Foulois makes first military air flight in a Wright brothers plane at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio.

1911-1920 - Mexican civil war spills across the border, as refugees seek safety, combatants seek each other, and Texas settlements are raided for supplies by all sides in the fighting. Pancho Villa and his followers are active along the border during some of this time.

1916 - Texas voters able to directly elect US senators.

1917-1918 - World War I.

1917 - Gov. James Ferguson is impeached and convicted he leaves office.

  • - March - Texas women win the right to vote in primary elections.
  • Annie Webb Blanton becomes the first woman elected to a statewide office when she is elected State Superintendent of Public Instruction.
  • Responding to anti-German sentiment, Gov. William P. Hobby vetoes appropriations for German Dept. of The University of Texas.
  • Texans adopt a prohibition amendment to the state constitution.

1920 - Large-scale agricultural irrigation begins in the High Plains.

  • Miriam "Ma" Ferguson becomes Texas' first woman governor, serving as a figurehead for her husband, former Gov. James E. Ferguson.
  • Sept. 30 - Texas Tech University begins classes in Lubbock as Texas Technological College.

1928 - June 26-29 - The Democratic National Convention is held in Houston, the first nominating convention held in a Southern city since 1860.

1929 - Feb. 17 - The League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) is founded in Corpus Christi.

1930 - Sept. 5 - The Daisy Bradford #3 well, drilled near Turnertown in Rusk County by wildcatter C.M. (Dad) Joiner, blows in, heralding the discovery of the huge East Texas Oil Field.

1935 - Two years after federal prohibition was repealed, Texas voters ratify the repeal of the state's prohibition law.

1936 - June 6 - Texas Centennial Exposition opens at Dallas' Fair Park it runs until Nov. 29.

1937 - March 18 - A massive explosion, blamed on a natural-gas leak beneath the London Consolidated School building in Rusk County, kills an estimated 296 students and teachers. Subsequent deaths of people injured in the explosion bring the death count to 311. As a result, the Texas legislature requires that a malodorant be added to the odorless gas so that leaks can be more easily detected.

1941-1945 - World War II.

1943 - June - A race riot in Beaumont leads to a declaration of martial law.

1947 - April 16 - The French-owned SS Grandcamp, carrying ammonium nitrate, explodes in the Texas City harbor, followed the next morning by the explosion of the SS High Flyer. The disaster kills almost 600 and injures at least 4,000 more. The concussion is felt 75 miles away in Port Arthur, and the force creates a 15-foot tidal wave.

1948 - Lyndon B. Johnson beats Coke Stevenson in the US Senate race by 87 votes. The winning margin in the disputed primary is registered in Ballot Box No. 13 in Jim Wells County.

1949 - Aug. 24 - The University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston admits its first black student.

1950 - The US Supreme Court orders racial integration of The University of Texas law school.

  • Dwight D. Eisenhower becomes the first Texas-born President of the United States.
  • May 11 - A tornado kills 114, injures 597 at Waco 150 homes and 185 other buildings are destroyed.
  • 1953'
  • May 22 - The Tidelands Bill is signed by Pres. Eisenhower, giving Texas the rights to its offshore oil.

1954 - Texas women gain the right to serve on juries.

1958 -Sept. 12 - Integrated circuit, developed by Jack Kilby at Texas Instruments, Dallas, is successfully tested, ushering in the semiconductor and electronics age.

1961 -John Tower wins special election for US Senate, becoming the first Republican senator from Texas since Reconstruction.

1962 - NASA opens the Manned Spacecraft Center in Houston. The center moves to a new campus-like building complex in 1964. It is renamed Lyndon B. Johnson Space Center on Aug. 17, 1973.

1963 - Nov. 22 - President John F. Kennedy is assassinated in Dallas vice president Lyndon B. Johnson succeeds to the office, becoming the 36th US president.

1964 - Poll tax is abolished by the 24th Amendment to the US Constitution as a requirement for voting for federal offices. It is retained in Texas, however, for state and local offices.

  • The Texas Legislature is reapportioned on the principle of one person, one vote.
  • June 3 - San Antonio native Ed White becomes the first American to walk in space.
  • The poll tax is repealed as a requirement for voting in all elections by amendment of the Texas Constitution.
  • Barbara Jordan of Houston becomes the first black woman elected to the Texas Senate.
  • Aug. 1 - Charles Whitman kills 17 people, shooting them from the observation deck of the main-building tower on The University of Texas campus in Austin.

1967 - Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF) is incorporated in Texas its first national office is in San Antonio.

1969 - July 20 - Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong transmits the first words from the surface of the moon: "Houston, the Eagle has landed."

1971 - Securities and Exchange Commission investigates illegal manipulation of stock transactions involving Frank Sharp and his Sharpstown State Bank of Houston.

1972 - The Sharpstown Scandal results in the conviction of House speaker Gus Mutscher and two associates for conspiracy and bribery

1974 - Jan. 8 - Constitutional Convention meets to attempt to write a new state constitution. However, the delegates, comprising the membership of the 63rd Legislature, become mired in divisive politics, and the convention adjourns on July 30, 1974, without a document.

1978 - William Clements becomes the first Republican governor of Texas since Reconstruction.

1979 -April 10 - Several tornadoes kill 53 in West Texas, including 42 in Wichita Falls, and cause $400 million in damages.

1984 - The no-pass-no-play rule is part of an education-reform package enacted by the Texas Legislature.

1984 - Aug. 20-23 - The National Republican Convention is held in Dallas.

1985 - The Federal Home Loan Bank Board suspends deposit insurance for Texas savings-and-loan companies applying for state charters. Three years later, after uncovering widespread insider abuse at Texas lending institutions, federal regulators announce bail-out plans for many Texas thrifts and begin prosecution of S&L officials.

1988 - Houstonian George Bush is elected president of the United States.

1990 - Democrat Ann Richards becomes the first woman governor of Texas in her own right.

  • April 19 - Siege that began on Feb. 28 ended, federal agents storm the compound called Mount Carmel near Waco, where cult leader David Koresh and his followers, called Branch Davidians, had reportedly been storing a large cache of assault weapons. The assault and ensuing fire kill four agents and 86 Branch Davidians.
  • Republican Kay Bailey Hutchison becomes the first woman to serve as US Senator from Texas.

21st Century Texas History Timeline

2000 - Former Texas Gov. George W. Bush elected President of the United States.

2001 - Enron filed for bankruptcy protection

2003 - Space shuttle Columbia broke apart across southeastern Texas as it descended toward its planned landing, all crew members were lost

  • Republican majority leader in US House of Representatives, Tom DeLay, indicted with criminal conspiracy by grand jury in Texas
  • Hurricane Rita forced over 1 million to evacuate

2006 - Two Enron executives convicted of conspiracy, fraud

2007 - Gunman at Johnson Space Center in Houston killed male hostage, self

2008 - Hurricane Ike struck Texas Gulf Coast, caused major flooding, billions of dollars in damages

2009 - Army Major Nidal Malik Hasan opened fire on fellow soldiers at Fort Hood military base, killed 13, injured 30

  • Texas wildfires destroyed over 1 million acres, burned over 1,000 homes
  • Governor Rick Perry announced candidacy for Republican nominee in 2012 presidential race

2013 - On Thursday, April 18, 2013, a massive explosion at a fertilizer plant on the edge of the small Texas town of West killed at least 35 people, wounded more than 170, leveled dozens and dozens of homes and prompted authorities to evacuate half their community of 2,800. West is a community of about 2,800 people, about 75 miles south of Dallas and 120 miles north of Austin.

15a. Shays' Rebellion

The modern day Northampton courthouse, built in 1884 on the same site as the courthouse where Shays' Rebellion occurred.

The crisis of the 1780s was most intense in the rural and relatively newly settled areas of central and western Massachusetts. Many farmers in this area suffered from high debt as they tried to start new farms. Unlike many other state legislatures in the 1780s, the Massachusetts government didn't respond to the economic crisis by passing pro-debtor laws (like forgiving debt and printing more paper money ). As a result local sheriffs seized many farms and some farmers who couldn't pay their debts were put in prison.

These conditions led to the first major armed rebellion in the post-Revolutionary United States. Once again, Americans resisted high taxes and unresponsive government that was far away. But this time it was Massachusetts's settlers who were angry with a republican government in Boston, rather than with the British government across the Atlantic.

The farmers in western Massachusetts organized their resistance in ways similar to the American Revolutionary struggle. They called special meetings of the people to protest conditions and agree on a coordinated protest. This led the rebels to close courts by force in the fall of 1786 and to liberate imprisoned debtors from jail. Soon events flared into a full-scale revolt when the resistors came under the leadership of Daniel Shays , a former captain in the Continental Army. This was the most extreme example of what could happen in the tough times brought on by the economic crisis. Some thought of the Shaysites (named after their military leader) as heroes in the direct tradition of the American Revolution, while many others saw them as dangerous rebels whose actions might topple the young experiment in republican government.

Patriots or traitors? Farmers from western Massachusetts followed petitions for economic relief with insurgency in the fall of 1786. A group of protestors, led by Revolutionary War veteran Daniel Shays, began a 6 month rebellion by taking over the Court of Common Pleas in Northampton the goal was to prevent the trial and imprisonment of debt-ridden citizens.

James Bowdoin , the governor of Massachusetts, was clearly in the latter group. He organized a military force funded by eastern merchants, to confront the rebels. This armed force crushed the movement in the winter of 1786-1787 as the Shaysites quickly fell apart when faced with a strong army organized by the state. While the rebellion disintegrated quickly, the underlying social forces that propelled such dramatic action remained. The debtors' discontent was widespread and similar actions occurred on a smaller scale in Maine (then still part of Massachusetts), Connecticut, New York, and Pennsylvania among others places.

While Governor Bowdoin had acted decisively in crushing the rebellion, the voters turned against him in the next election. This high level of discontent, popular resistance, and the election of pro-debtor governments in many states threatened the political notions of many political and social elites. Shays' Rebellion demonstrated the high degree of internal conflict lurking beneath the surface of post-Revolutionary life. National leaders felt compelled to act to put an end to such popular actions that took place beyond the bounds of law.