- Historic Sites
101 More Things Every College Graduate Should Know About American History
You Asked for It
December 1987 | Volume 38, Issue 8
John Fitzgerald, Boston political boss, best known for being the namesake of his grandson, John Fitzgerald Kennedy. Fitzgerald got the name for his charm and skill at singing “Sweet Adeline.” He was also known as Fitzblarney, for more easily understandable reasons.
Title given to President Woodrow Wilson by unscrupulous political opponents because of his supposed illicit relationship with a divorcée, Mrs. Mary Alien Peck.
The name given Gen. John J. Pershing by West Point cadets because of the strict discipline he maintained while assigned there in the late 1890s. Pershing had earlier commanded the 10th Cavalry, an all-black unit, and was devoted to that regiment. This roused the scorn of the cadets.
1676. An uprising of western Virginia planters against the Eastern Establishment headed by Sir William Berkeley, the royal governor. The Westerners, led by Nathaniel Bacon, resented both the social pretensions of the Berkeley group—which in turn considered the Baconites “a giddy and unthinking multitude”—and Berkeley’s unwillingness to support their attacks on local Indians. Bacon raised a small army, murdered some peaceful Indians, burned Jamestown, and forced the governor to flee. But Bacon came down with a “violent flux” and died, and soon thereafter Berkeley restored order.
1689–91. After news of the abdication of James II had reached New York, Jacob Leisler, a local militia captain, proclaimed himself governor of the colony. He claimed to rule in the name of the new monarchs, William and Mary, and attempted without success to organize an expedition against French Canada during King William’s War. In 1691, after a governor appointed by King William had arrived in New York, Leisler resisted turning over power. He was arrested, tried for treason, and executed.
1763–64. Pennsylvania frontiersmen—many of them from the town of Paxton—angered by the Easterndominated colonial Assembly’s unwillingness to help in the defense against Indian attacks, murdered some peaceful Indians (always easier than taking on warlike tribes) and marched on Philadelphia. They were persuaded to return to their homes by a group headed by Benjamin Franklin, who promised the Assembly would authorize paying bounties for Indian scalps.
45 Pontiac's Rebellion,
1763–64. Indians of the Great Lakes area, led by Pontiac, chief of the Ottawas, attempted unsuccessfully to drive the British out of their territory and check the influx of white settlers who invaded the region after the end of the French and Indian War.
1769–71. Another east-west conflict, this one in North Carolina, triggered by the dominance of the eastern counties. It culminated in the Battle of Alamance, where a thousand government troops beat a Regulator force twice that size.
47 Shay's Rebellion,
1786–87. This Massachusetts uprising was both a result of unstable economic conditions following the Revolution and an important cause of the movement to strengthen the central government that resulted in the drafting of the Constitution. Debt-ridden western Massachusetts farmers, led by Daniel Shays, seeking to stop foreclosures and obtain the printing of new issues of paper money by the state, marched on Springfield, where they hoped to seize a government arsenal. Government militia units easily defeated them, however, and Shays fled the state. The “rebellion” then collapsed.
48 Whiskey Rebellion,
1794. When Congress enacted a stiff excise tax on whiskey in 1791, farmers in western Pennsylvania were especially hard hit. They were accustomed to turn their surplus grain into whiskey, which was much easier to store and ship to market than grain itself. When the farmers organized protest meetings and prevented the collection of the tax, President Washington announced that their actions “amount to treason” and ordered them to disperse. When they did not, he called up thirteen thousand militiamen (more men than he had ever commanded during the Revolution) and marched against them. Faced with this overwhelming force, the protesters submitted. Thomas Jefferson, who was popular throughout the West, had the tax repealed after he became President in 1801.