101 Things Every College Graduate Should Know About American History

PrintPrintEmailEmail

This term, coined by John L. O’Sullivan in 1845 in an article in his United States Magazine and Democratic Review , reflected the expansionist spirit of the era. It was, O’Sullivan wrote, “our manifest [read ‘obvious’] destiny to overspread the continent.”

 

33 WAVING THE BLOODY SHIRT

This post-Civil War Republican tactic involved reminding Northern voters that the South was made up mostly of Democrats and that many Northern members of that party had been at best lukewarm about resisting secession. The term came into use after the congressman Benjamin F. Butler displayed before his colleagues the bloodstained shirt of a Northerner who had been flogged in Mississippi. The “bloody shirt” was used by Republicans for decades as a way of diverting attention from politically embarrassing contemporary issues. A classic speech in this vein was given by Robert G. Ingersoll in the campaign of 1880: “Every man that lowered our flag was a Democrat. Every man that bred bloodhounds was a Democrat. Every preacher that said that slavery was a divine institution was a Democrat. Recollect it! Every man that shot a Union soldier was a Democrat. Every wound borne by you Union soldiers is a souvenir of a Democrat.”

 

34 THE ROBBER BARONS

This name was applied to the ultrarich industrialists of the late nineteenth century, such as the railroad magnates Cornelius Vanderbilt and Jay Gould, and the oil tycoon John D. Rockefeller. It originated in the late 1860s but became a symbol for corporate power and the evils of unrestrained economic freedom , only with the publication of Matthew Josephson’s best seller The Robber Barons , in 1934.

TWENTY WONDERFUL NICKNAMES 35 His ROTUNDITY

John Adams, so called because of his shape.

36 OLD HICKORY

Andrew Jackson, because of his toughness. The name dates from his days as an Indian fighter during the War of 1812. After the Battle of Horseshoe Bend in Alabama in 1814, his Creek Indian foes gave him another name, “Sharp Knife.”

37 THE LITTLE MAGICIAN

Martin Van Buren (also called “The Red Fox” and “The American Talleyrand”), because he was a crafty and inventive political manager. His New York machine was known as the Albany Regency because, during the 1820s and 1830s, it ran things while Van Buren spent most of his time away in Washington as senator, secretary of state, Vice-President, and finally as President.

38 HIS ACCIDENCY

John Tyler, so called after he succeeded to the Presidency upon the death of William Henry Harrison, in 1841. Since this was the first time a President had died in office, there was some question as to the extent of Tyler’s authority.

 

39 OLD ROUGH AND READY

Zachary Taylor was given this name by his troops during his long career in the Army, because of his his informal yet confidence-building way of dealing with them and his rough-hewn appearance.

40 OLD Fuss AND FEATHERS

Gen. Winfield Scott, like his contemporary Zachary Taylor, was a successful soldier (more, however, as an organizer and strategist than as a battlefield leader). Scott earned this nickname by being extremely vain and something of a blusterer.

 

41 THE PATHFINDER

John C. Frémont, because of his long career as an explorer and surveyor, and his excellent published reports on his explorations, written with the help of his wife, Jessie, the daughter of Sen. Thomas Hart Benton.

42 THE LITTLE GIANT

Stephen A. Douglas (also called “The Steam Engine in Britches”), because of his short stature (he had a massive head and trunk perched on stubby, almost dwarfish legs), his colorful personality, and his self-confident political style.

43 THE PLUMED KNIGHT

James G. Blaine, so called by his many Republican admirers; the Democrats called him other things. The name was bestowed on Blaine by Robert lngersoll, a spell-binding orator of the era, in a speech nominating him for President at the 1876 Republican Convention. The nomination, however went to …

44 …HIS FRAUDULENCY

Rutherford B. Hayes, who won the Presidency in the famous disputed election of 1876. Hayes’s wife, who would not allow liquor in the White House, was known as “Lemonade Lucy.”

45 THE GREAT COMMONER

William Jennings Bryan (also called “The Boy Orator of the Platte” and “The Peerless Leader”), because of his stress on being a product of and a representative of “the people.” When the free-silver issue surfaced in the 1890s, Bryan, then in the House of Representatives, announced: “The people of Nebraska are for free silver. Therefore I am for free silver. I’ll look up the reasons later.”

 

46 THE ROUGH RIDER

Theodore Roosevelt (also called “TR” and “Teddy,” which latter name he disliked intensely), because of the regiment of that name, composed of a motley mixture of cowboys, adventurers, and odd characters raised by Roosevelt to fight in the Spanish-American War.

47 THE OHIO ICICLE

Sen. John Sherman of Ohio, sponsor of the Sherman Antitrust Act, because of his stiff, colorless personality. Sherman is thought to have invented the political term “to mend some fences.”

48 BIG BILL