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The West Terms


A voucher, IOU, or some other form of paper instrument that is redeemable for cash or something else of value. Under the Morrill Education Act, states were awarded "scrip" that could be used to purchase public lands in order to finance educational projects. States sold this scrip at auction.

Central Pacific Railroad

The western portion of the first transcontinental railroad. Stretching from California to Utah, the Central Pacific was authorized by Congress in 1862 and completed in 1869.

Union Pacific Railroad

A part of the first transcontinental railroad. The Union Pacific began construction at Omaha, Nebraska in 1865 and linked up with the Central Pacific at Promontory Summit, Utah in 1869.

"Golden Spike"

The ceremonial spike linking the Central Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads at Promontory Summit in 1869.

Riparian Rights

Fundamental water law principle stating that land owners adjacent to a watercourse possess a right to make use of the water from that stream. However, the land owner may not excessively impede the flow of the stream or interfere with the water rights possessed by land owners downstream.

Right Of Appropriation

In water law, this refers to the right of a factory owner or farmer to dam rivers and diminish the flow of water to land owners located downriver. This legal principle amended traditional riparian rights under the premise that altering a watercourse could serve a socially beneficial purpose; the riparian rights of landowners downstream could be circumscribed in order to advance "the natural rights of all."54


The process through which a person attains citizenship in a country other than the one in which he or she was born.

The process by which an immigrant becomes an American citizen.

The Big Four

The founders of the Central Pacific Railroad Company, Leland Stanford, Charles Crocker, Collis Huntington, and Mark Hopkins.


The pragmatic faction within the Populist or People's Party that urged alliance with the Democratic Party after the Democrats nominated free-silver proponent William Jennings Bryan for president in 1896.


The more radical faction within the Populist or People's Party that resisted alliance with the Democrats in 1896. Although the two parties shared a commitment to the free coinage of silver, the Populist Party platform contained several more ambitious reform planks. Mid-roaders believed that these would be sacrificed through "fusion" with the more moderate Democratic Party.

California Doctrine

An innovative principle in American water law established by the California State Supreme Court in Miller v. Haggin and adopted by eight other western states. The California Doctrine states that landowners possess riparian rights but farmers and factory owners may claim rights of appropriation if their use serves a beneficial purpose and if their use pre-dates the use of riparian claimants downstream.


Term adopted by American women campaigning for the right to vote as an alternative to the label "suffragette" that was applied in Great Britain, often with negative connotations.

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