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Barnburners, radical element of the Democratic party in New York state from 1842 to 1848, opposed to the conservative Hunkers. The name derives from the fabled Dutchman who burned his barn to rid it of rats; by implication, the Barnburners would destroy corporations and public works to do away with the abuses they foster. Among their leaders were C. C. Cambreleng, Silas Wright, Azariah C. Flagg, and Samuel J. Tilden. Opposed to the extension of slavery, the Barnburners seceded from the Democratic state organization when the Hunkers captured the state convention at Syracuse in 1847. Refused recognition at the Democratic national convention of 1848, they nominated Martin Van Buren for President and endorsed the Free-Soil party candidate, Charles Francis Adams (1807–86), for Vice President. Largely because of this Democratic split, the Whig candidate, Zachary Taylor, defeated the regular Democrat, Lewis Cass. After 1848 some Barnburners joined the Free-Soilers, who merged with the new Republican party; others returned to the Democratic party.

See H. D. A. Donovan, The Barnburners (1925).

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BARNBURNERS was the nickname of a progressive faction of the New York State Democratic Party in the 1840s. The name "Barnburner" came from the story of the Dutch farmer who was willing to burn his barn to get rid of the rats. In direct opposition to the southern wing of the Democratic Party, Barnburners supported the Wilmot Proviso, which proposed to ban slavery from the territories captured in the Mexican War. In 1848 the Barn-burners bolted from the Democrats and nominated the Free Soil candidate, Martin Van Buren, for president. The Barnburners' defection ensured the defeat of the Democratic nominee, Lewis Cass. In the 1850s most of the Barnburners joined the newly founded Republican Party.


Potter, David M. The Impending Crisis, 1848–1861. Edited and completed by Don E. Fehrenbacher. New York: Harper and Row, 1976.

Rayback, Joseph G. Free Soil: The Election of 1848. Lexington, Ky.: University Press of Kentucky, 1970.

Augustus H.Shearer/a. g.

See alsoFree Soil Party ; Wilmot Proviso .

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barn1 / bärn/ • n. a large farm building used for storing grain, hay, or straw or for housing livestock. ∎  a large shed used for storing vehicles. ∎  a large and unattractive building: moved into that barn of a house. barn2 (abbr.: b) • n. Physics a unit of area, 10−28 square meters, used esp. in particle physics.

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barn barn burner in North American usage, a very exciting or dramatic event, especially a sports contest. Barnburner was also the name for an adherent of a section of the Democratic Party in New York State in the 1840s, whose zeal for reform was so intense that it was said that they were prepared to ‘burn the barn to get rid of the rats’.

See also Robin Hood's barn at Robin.

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barn, abbr. b, in physics, unit of nuclear cross section, i.e., the effective target presented by a nucleus for collisions leading to nuclear reactions; it is equal to 10-24 square centimeters. The barn is approximately the size of the geometric cross section of an atomic nucleus; the term was coined because an effective cross section that large would present a target "as big as a barn," i.e., an easy target for nuclear bombardment. In practice, effective cross sections of nuclei for many reactions are measured in millibarns (10-3 barn) because, for most interactions, only a small fraction of collisions cause reactions.

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barn. Building to store agricultural produce, especially grain, to protect it from the weather. Barns of the Middle Ages often had architectural pretensions. Examples include the C13 barn at Great Coxwell, Berks., and the (probably) C12 barley-barn at Cressing Temple, Essex, both with timber nave-and-aisle interiors.


Endersby et al . (1992);
Kirk (1994)

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barn (symbol b) Scientific unit of area used in nuclear physics to measure the cross-sections in interactions of particles. A barn equals 10−24 cm2 per nucleus. This area is a measure of the probability that fission, the splitting of a heavy atomic nucleus, will occur when a neutron moves towards a heavy nucleus.

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barn OE. ber(e) n, earlier berern, f. bere BARLEY + ern, ærn (ON. rann, Goth. razn) house.