Archive for May 10th, 2012

Weird names in US history

Patroons—Descendants of the first Dutch settlers in the Hudson Valley in New Netherland, now known as New York state. Somewhat equivalent to the First Families of Virginia, they enjoyed wealth and influence in colonial politics and beyond.  Similar to the word “patron.”

Locofocos— radical wing of the Democratic Party, organized in New York City in 1835- 1840s. Made up primarily of workingmen and reformers, the Locofocos were opposed to state banks, monopolies, paper money, tariffs, and generally any financial policies that seemed to them antidemocratic and conducive to special privilege. They were named after a type of matches.

Fire-eaters— southerners who refused to acknowledge any criticism of slavery. They were a group of extremist pro-slavery politicians from the South who urged the separation of southern states into a new nation as early as 1850, when they held a secessionist convention in Nashville, Tennessee over the turmoil related to the addition of the Mexican Cession.

Know-Nothings—Member of the American party of 1854-1856, which was a nativist, anti-immigrant, anti-Catholic political movement. They received their name because supposedly, when questioned if they belonged to this movement, they responded, “I know nothing.” They fell apart over the issue of slavery after the election of 1856. This group was formed from the “Order of United Americans” and the “Order of the Star Spangled Banner.”

Barnburners—a faction of radical New York Democrats formed in the late 1830s who split from the Democratic party in 1848 over the issue of slavery. They then joined with the Liberty party and anti-slavery Whigs to form the Free Soil party after that point. They were against increasing the public debt and distrusted the power of large corporations. Their support of third party candidate James Birney in the election of 1848 helped deprive Henry Clay of enough votes in New York that James Polk was able to be elected president.

Mugwumps— In the election of 1884, the Mugwumps were reformist Republicans who voted for Democrat Grover Cleveland over James Blaine due to their belief that he was corrupt. Blaine was a leader of the less-radical Half-Breeds, who supported civil service reform of the patronage system under the Pendleton Act of 1883, which was not yet fully implemented. Although a small fragment of the overall Republican party, their voting patterns were just enough to change the vote in New York state, narrowly giving Cleveland the victory, as had happened with the Barnburners mentioned previously.

Half-Breeds—Gilded Age Republicans who were led by James Blaine of Maine. They were the moderate wing of the Republican party, and were opposed by the radical Mugwumps as well as the patronage-loving Stalwarts.

Stalwarts—A faction of the Republican party during the Gilded Age who were in favor of machine politics and the patronage system. They were led by Senator Roscoe Conkling of New York, so were sometimes called Conklingites.

Copperheads—also known as “Peace Democrats,” during the secession crisis after the party had broken up in 1860, they  were northern Democrats that opposed the Civil War and even believed the Republicans had provoked the secession crisis. They were most numerous in the Midwest, and were led by Clement Vallandigham of Ohio, who also led a secret antiwar society called the Sons of Liberty. Vallandigham was arrested for violating a military order against “declaring sympathy for the enemy,” and was tried by a military tribunal and was later exiled to the Confederacy. He instead traveled via Bermuda to Canada, where he ran for governor of Ohio in absentia. His platform was to secede Ohio from the Union if Lincoln did not reconcile with the Confederacy. He lost overwhelmingly. Vallindigham was the basis for the main character in Edward Everett Hale’s short story, “The Man Without a Country.”

Molly Maguires—a secret organization made up mostly of Irish-American coal miners in Pennsylvania from the end of the Civil War to the late 1870s. They were accused of kidnappings and other violent acts. The organization originated in Ireland and then made their way here with immigrants.

Yippies— The Yippies (Youth International Party), was a group founded in 1967 by Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin. Originally part of the SDS, the Yippies believed in many of the same leftist ideals. The Yippies came to represent the violent, more reckless side to the leftist movement.

Yuppies—Young Urban Professionals, the Yuppies ruled the 1980s in their loft apartments, their BMWs, their power suits, and their high disposable incomes.

DINKs—Another term for certain Yuppies in the 1980s, this stands for Dual Income, No Kids.

Doughfaces—those Northerners who supported the Southern position in the antebellum era were called doughfaces. Some doughfaces were also Copperheads.

Grangers— members of “The Grange,” otherwise known as The National Grange of the Order of Patrons of Husbandry, which was a fraternal organization for farmers founded in 1867. It still exists, although there are only about 300,000 members currently, down from a peak of about a million in the 1880s. They were responsible for a series of laws regulating railroads known as Granger Laws. See also, the muggle family of Hermione Granger.

Overview of Labor Unions in the US