101 More Things Every College Graduate Should Know About American History


87 The Great Compromise

(1787). This was the agreement reached at the Constitutional Convention between the smaller, less populous states, which wished all states to be represented equally in Congress, and the larger states, which favored representation according to population. The compromise, of course, was to give each state two senators, chosen by its legislature, and to apportion seats in the House of Representatives according to population and elect the members by popular vote. The Great Compromise was far less important than the Founding Fathers thought at the time, since in practice most issues have divided the country on economic or geographic lines, not on the size of the states.

88 The Three-fifths Compromise

(1787). This was a deal at the convention between Northern and Southern delegates. Northerners wanted to count slaves as property in the apportionment of federal taxes. Southerners wanted to count them as part of the population when determining the size of each state’s delegation in the House of Representatives. The compromise was to count each slave as three-fifths of a person for both purposes. In practice this favored the South because no direct taxes were enacted by Congress until after slavery was abolished.

89 The Compromise Tariff

(1833). In the late 1820s and early 1830s Northern and Western interests had pushed laws through Congress placing high protective duties on many imported manufactured goods. Most Southerners disliked these duties because there was little manufacturing in their section. Passage of the Tariff of 1832 led South Carolina (inspired by its leading statesman, John C. Calhoun) to enact an Ordinance of Nullification declaring that law and the previous tariff void in South Carolina and prohibiting the collection of duties in the state after February 1,1833. To prevent the showdown between state and federal authority that would have followed, Calhoun and Henry Clay (whose American System had encouraged the coalition of Northern and Western interests that had made passage of the high tariffs possible) engineered the passage of a new tariff that lowered the duties gradually over a period of years. South Carolina then repealed its ordinance before the February 1 deadline.

90 The Crittenden Compromise

(1860). This proposal was advanced by Sen. John J. Crittenden of Kentucky, a disciple of Henry Clay, who had died in 1852, to relieve the sectional crisis that resulted from the election of Lincoln as President. Crittenden suggested a constitutional amendment allowing slavery in all territories south of 36°30’ and guaranteeing that no future amendment would seek to tamper with slavery where it already existed. The necessary legislation failed, however, when Republicans refused to go along with any extension of slavery into new territory.

91 The Compromise of 1877.

This deal broke the deadlock created by the disputed 1876 presidential election. In exchange for accepting the Republican version of the results and thus the election of Rutherford B. Hayes, the Democrats were promised that Hayes would remove the last Federal troops from the South and appoint a Southerner to his cabinet. The compromise marked the end of the Reconstruction Era and of Federal efforts to compel white Southerners to treat blacks fairly.

92 The Atlanta Compromise

(1895). The. name given to the policy proposed by Booker T. Washington in his speech at the Atlanta Cotton States and International Exposition. Washington urged Southern blacks to accept segregation and to concentrate on developing useful skills. In return he urged white Southerners to help black people get ahead in the world. If they did, he promised, blacks would be the “most patient, faithful, law-abiding, and unresentful people that the world has seen.” The policy worked in the sense that it reduced racial tensions and attracted considerable Northern philanthropic support for Southern blacks, but, as W. E. B. Du Bois and other black radicals pointed out, the psychological cost was high and Southern white aid scant.


93 Penicillin.

Discovered by Sir Alexander Fleming, a Scottish bacteriologist, in 1928 and made available for general use during World War II.

94 Transistor.

Source of the electronic revolution, invented at the Bell laboratories by William B. Shockley, John Bardeen, and Walter H. Brattain, in 1947.

95 Nylon.