101 More Things Every College Graduate Should Know About American History


Name applied by abolitionists and other opponents of slavery to the chaotic situation that developed in the Kansas Territory in the mid-1850s. With the territory open to slavery as a result of the Kansas-Nebraska Act, pro and antislavery supporters rushed to the state to try to capture the government. Fighting broke out between proslavery “Border Ruffians” from Missouri and antislavery settlers. John Brown’s raid at Pottawatomie is the best known of the numerous atrocities of the period.

11 Cotton Is King.

Argument of Southern disunionists in the 1850s, who claimed that the North would not resist secession because its economy and that of Great Britain and other European powers were dependent on Southern cotton.

12 Seward’s Folly.

The response of critics to Secretary of State William H. Seward’s purchase of Alaska from Russia in 1867, who felt that the price, $7,200,000, was far too high.

13 Let’s Get Another Deck.

This was a Republican response in 1936 to Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal. When that failed, the Republicans tried Two Good Terms Deserve a Rest. This rather feeble 1940 slogan met, of course, with equal lack of success.

14 Twisting the Lion’s Tail.

A nineteenth-century political technique involving criticism of Great Britain in general and British policies in particular in order to win the support of Irish-Americans.

15 Remeber the "Maine."

Rallyingcry of those eager to go to war with Spain in order to free Cuba after the USS Maine blew up in Havana Harbor in February 1898.

16 Perdicaris Alive or Raisuli Dead.

This phrase (actually a telegram sent by Secretary of State John Hay to the sultan of Morocco) was used by the Republicans to help reelect Theodore Roosevelt in 1904. Ion Perdicaris and his son had been abducted in Morocco by a bandit named Ahmed ibn-Muhammed Raisuli. The Greek-born Perdicaris, whose American citizenship was actually open to question, was released before Hay’s telegram arrived.

17 Keep Cool with Coolidge.

Republican advice during the 1924 presidential campaign, probably an attempt to make a virtue of Calvin Coolidge’s taciturn style.

18 Massive Retaliation.

Secretary of State John Foster Dulles’s substitute for the Democrats’ policy of “containing” Soviet expansion. Dulles proposed that any Soviet or Red Chinese aggression should be nipped in the bud by threatening to respond with nuclear weapons. This “atomic diplomacy” was also said to offer the United States the cheapest possible defense—a “bigger bang for a buck.”

19 All the Way with LBJ.

The Democratic slogan in 1964 urging that Lyndon B. Johnson—who had become President after Kennedy’s assassination the year before—deserved to be elected in his own right.

20 It’s Morning in America Again.

A phrase used by Republican publicists in the 1984 election to describe the apparent change of mood in the country from pessimism to optimism.


21 Common Sense

(1776), by Thomas Paine. The pamphlet that, with its bold call for outright independence rather than reform of the British imperial system and with its harsh attack on both King George III, the “Royal Brute,” and the very idea of monarchy, persuaded thousands to favor a complete break with Great Britain.

22 Uncle Tom's Cabin

(1852), by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Whether or not Abraham Lincoln actually said to Stowe, “So this is the little woman who made this big war,” this book had an enormous impact on how Northerners felt about slavery. It did so principally because of Stowe’s ability to describe plantation slaves as individual people with deep feelings caught in an evil system without treating every white character in the story as an unmitigated villain.