101 Things Every College Graduate Should Know About American History

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William Howard Taft, because he weighed more than three hundred pounds.

49 SILENT CAL

Calvin Coolidge, who had little to say and said it economically—e.g., “The business of the United States is business” and, when asked if he would seek réélection in 1928, “I do not chose to run.”

50 THE HAPPY WARRIOR

Alfred E. Smith, who was given this name by Franklin D. Roosevelt in the course of a speech nominating him for President at the 1928 Democratic convention.

51 THE KINGFISH

Huey P. Long, because of his total dominance of his native state of Louisiana.

52 TAIL GUNNER JOE

Joseph R. McCarthy, the Communist-hunting senator who claimed—falsely—to have been a tail gunner on American bombers during World War II.

 

53 TRICKY DICK

Richard M. Nixon, because of his shifty, calculating political style. The phrase long antedated the Watergate scandal.

54 LANDSLIDE LYNDON

Lyndon B. Johnson, because of the paper-thin margin by which he was first elected to Congress, in 1936.

TEN PAINTINGS THAT SAY “AMERICA”

 

55 PAUL REVERE

by John Singleton Copley (painted in 1765–70).

 

56 THE DECLARATION OF INDEPENDENCE

by John Trumbull (1786–97).

 

57 GEORGE WASHINGTON

by Gilbert Stuart. The “unfinished” version (1796).

 

58 EXHUMING THE MASTODON

by Charles Willson Peale (1801).

 

59 RAFTSMEN PLAYING CARDS

by George Caleb Bingham (1847).

 

60 THE CLINIC OF DR. GROSS

by Thomas Eakins (1875).

 

61 THE GULF STREAM

by Winslow Homer (1886).

 

62 STAG AT SHARKEY’S

by George Bellows (1907).

 

63 AMERICAN GOTHIC

by Grant Wood (1930).

 

64 FLAG

by Jasper Johns (1955).

QUOTATIONS WORTH QUOTING

65 “I heard the bullets whistle, and, believe me, there is something charming in the sound.” (George Washington, writing to his brother after his first experience in battle, in 1754. When the letter was published in Great Britain, King George II is said to have remarked that the young soldier would not have found the sound so charming “if he had been used to hearing more.”)

66 O! ye that love mankind! Ye that dare oppose not only the tyranny but the tyrant, stand forth!” (Thomas Paine, urging the colonies to declare their independence, in Common Sense , 1776.)

67 “Sell [our] country! Why not sell the air, the clouds, and the great sea?” (Tecumseh, resisting suggestions that the Indians cede their lands in the Ohio Country to the United States, 1810.)

 

68 “Don’t give up the the ship!” (Capt. James Lawrence after being mortally wounded in the battle between the USS Chesapeake and HMS Shannon , 1813.) A somewhat fuller version of the line runs, “Tell the men to fire faster and not to give up the ship; fight her till she sinks.”

69 “The mass of mankind has not been born with saddles on their backs, nor a favored few booted and spurred, ready to ride them legitimately, by the grace of God.” (Thomas Jefferson, letter to Roger C. Weightman, 1826.)

70 The American continents, by the free and independent condition which they have assumed and maintained, are henceforth not to be considered as subjects for future colonization by any European powers.” (James Monroe enunciating the Monroe Doctrine in his annual message to Congress, 1823.)

71 “The politicians of New York are not so fastidious as some gentlemen are, as to disclosing the principles on which they act. They boldly preach what they practice. … If they are defeated, they expect to retire from office. If they are successful, they claim, as a matter of right, the advantages of success. They see nothing wrong in the rule that to the victor belongs the spoils of the enemy.” (Sen. William L. Marcy, defending Jackson’s appointment of Martin Van Buren as minister to Great Britain, 1831.)

 

72 “The history of mankind is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations on the part of man toward woman, having in direct object the establishment of an absolute tyranny over her.” (Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Lucretia Mott, “Declaration of Sentiments” at the Woman’s Rights Convention, Seneca Falls, New York, 1848.)