An old Irish proverb says:
You build a dozen roads, but do they call you Connor the road-builder? No. You sire six wonderful sons, but do they call you Connor the child-rearer? No. But you fuck one sheep...
It's true. Some men are remembered for their greatness, some men are remembered for their evil, and some men are just remembered for that one fantastic failure that taints their entire existence. Like...
Remembered For: Getting Massacred at Little Bighorn.
Shortly before being killed, General George Custer supposedly stated: "Hurrah boys, we've got them! We'll finish them up and then go home to our station." Aside from "woops" and "bitchtits," those are pretty much the most hilariously inappropriate last words ever, because his last stand was a slaughter.
The fact that he stands as the perfect symbol for America's mindlessly violent treatment of Native Americans ensured that his name would forever associated with laughably arrogant failure.
Not Remembered For: His progressive views and battle prowess.
Custer was at West Point when the Civil War started, where he graduated bottom of his class (that's called foreshadowing, friends). Despite his apparently crippling stupidity, he nonetheless went on to participate in some of the war's most important battles, and he was promoted rapidly up the ranks. During the battle of Gettysburg he was promoted to brigadier general at the age of only 23, making him one of the youngest in the entire Union Army. He also led a team of cavalry called the "Wolverines," who we remember and honor to this day for singlehandedly turning back the Russian invasion of the United States.
What has been completely forgotten, however, is that Custer was also remarkably liberal for the time. During President Grant's term, Custer publicly opposed the standing government's anti-Indian policies, and his testimony to Congress about the abuses on Indian reservations almost lost him his command.
Obviously his staunch moral stance didn't extend to "not trying to kill a shitload of them pretty much by yourself," but at the time that practically made him an Indian-loving hippie.
Remembered For: Assassinating Lincoln.
In 1865, two weeks after the Civil War drew to a close (and it was far too late to actually affect any policy change, genius) John Wilkes Booth entered a box at Ford's Theater and shot President Lincoln. It was the first successful presidential assassination in American history. He was cornered a few days later and died in a shootout with police, because that's the retirement package for presidential assassins; there's no 401k in it for you.
Not Remembered For: He was a hell of an actor.
NOTE: WE ARE NOT FUCKING SAYING THAT HIS BEING AN ACTOR MAKES UP FOR KILLING LINCOLN.
It's just that people don't realize if he hadn't shot the president in the head, Booth would still have had a place in history because he was a huge deal in the acting world. Maybe he wasn't at Brad Pitt's level of stardom, but he was at least equivalent to one of the Baldwin brothers. You know, like a good one. Not one of the ones you can rent for your kid's birthday party or anything (Stephen).
To get there, he taught himself Shakespeare and elocution (that means talkin' all sortsa' pretty-mouthed) on his family's rural estate before moving to the city to pursue his career. He was called "the handsomest man in America" and a "natural genius" by some reviewers, and was also noted for having an "astonishing memory."
At the age of 22, after only five years on stage, Booth was earning the equivalent of $500,000 a year, making him one of the highest paid actors of the time. And he killed the President of the United States! Can you imagine how insane that was at the time? Like if you heard tomorrow that Tom Cruise tried to stab Obama you'd hardly be able to bel- eh, maybe that's a bad example.
Remembered For: The Great Depression.
During his acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, Herbert Hoover dramatically declared that "The poorhouse is vanishing from among us." Seven months later, due to reckless mismanagement or possibly just fate's dickishly ironic sense of humor, the stock market crashed and sent America into the Great Depression. Hoover's name would become forever associated with skyrocketing unemployment, breadlines, towns of cardboard houses and those adorable hobos with bags on sticks.
Not Remembered For: His impressive service to his country.
Up until that great depression business, Hoover was like one of those inspirational kitten posters: Despite all the odds, he hung in there. Orphaned at the age of nine, he put himself through Stanford, built a mining empire, was a millionaire by the age of 40 and he even contributed greatly to the Allied efforts in World War I (long before his country even officially entered it!)
His entire life was nothing but financial successes in spite of severe hardship, and ultimately history only remembers him as being responsible for the worst financial disaster of all time. That's just far too cruelly ironic to be an accident. Either there is a God and Hoover used to pick on him in grade school, or else he made a wish from one of those dickhead genies that turns everything against you.
Remembered For: Shooting Alexander Hamilton.
Back in the day, politicians settled arguments like mid 90s gangsta rappers: If you got beef, you brought it to the street. This is exactly what happened with Aaron Burr and Alexander Hamilton. Despite insults so charmingly inoffensive by today's standards that they're practically terms of affection (the word "despicable" set it all off), Hamilton and Burr still went at it like a poncy Tupac and a foppish B.I.G. When shit went down (as shit is wont to do) Hamilton's shot missed, but Burr's was fatal.
Not Remembered For: Being the Vice President of the United States of America at the time.
Burr served in the New York State Assembly twice, as New York State Attorney General for two years and spent a term as a United States Senator. He took the unpopular view that women were (gasp!) intellectually equal to men, preached abolitionist ideals and once pawned his watch to buy food and medicine to save the lives of a friend's children.
When he shot Hamilton he was the sitting Vice President of the United States under Thomas Jefferson which, due to the way the voting worked at the time, meant Burr had come second in the presidential race, actually tying Jefferson on electoral votes. And he fucking shot a dude! Can you imagine the fallout today if a sitting vice president shot somebody?!
Remembered For: Negligence and Decadence.
As you probably learned in your high school history class (or from that guy in the Che Guevara T-shirt trying to sleep with your girlfriend at every party you've ever been to), the French Revolution was a huge turning point in history. Those poor peasants just couldn't take life under such a horrible, despotic monarch; and so they stormed the Bastille. They eventually beheaded the King and Queen, Louis XVI and his wife Marie Antoinette, who are still the popular representations of cruel excess and decadence to this day.
Not Remembered For: Helping create America!
You Americans reading this: Do you like being an American? If not, then GIT OUT LIBERAL ELITIST. But if so, then you have Louis XVI to thank; he went against the advice of his closest advisors to support the colonies during the American Revolution.
Without the support of the French, it is unlikely the revolution would have succeeded, and you all would be sipping tea right now in a world where everything's spelled half-backwards. If you're thankful you don't live in a terrifying maelstrom of "theatres" and "centres," well, you owe it all to the French.
Although, to be fair, it wasn't necessarily an altruistic gesture on Louis's part: He really just wanted to stick it to his historical enemy, England, without pausing to really think about the precedent overthrowing a fellow king would set (hint: It's kind of a head-choppy precedent).
Remembered For: Sucking up to Hitler.
Probably the most hilarious thing to come out of recent politics is the below clip of a clearly crazy right-wing commentator screaming that Obama as president would likely be "an appeaser" just like that filthy Neville Chamberlain was in World War II... until he was asked what specifically Chamberlain did, when he man had to admit he had no idea:
The point is, the association of Chamberlain with spineless foreign policy is so strong that it's quoted by people who don't remember elementary school history classes well enough to know who he was. All because during the rise of the Third Reich, Prime Minister Chamberlain was sent to meet with the most sinister, evil man in all of history. Instead of returning shaken from coming so close to the true depth of mankind's depravity and demanding all of Germany be razed, he came back and declared that, in exchange for giving Hitler small chunks of Europe, there would surely be "peace in our time."
That's right: He met Hitler and came out of it thinking that, if anything, the man should have more control.
History would eventually prove Chamberlain to be "hilariously wrong" (or would have if there wasn't so much genocide involved), and his name is now invoked as a curse any time anyone ever suggests negotiating with an enemy rather than immediately bombing them off the map.
Not Remembered For: Everything Else He Did.
Before winning the Prime Minister position, Chamberlain was a successful MP, Postmaster General and Minister of Health. He was even Chancellor of the Exchequer twice (the second most important guy in British politics--like the American Vice President, except he does a bit more than just nod solemnly and give the occasional comforting neck-rub). He later passed the Factories Act, which improved the horrifying work conditions in factories and cut back on child labor. He was extremely popular and even made the cover of TIME in America.
If you're saying, "Sure, he was popular until he sold out to fucking Hitler!" you're wrong. After he made the deal in Munich his popularity shot up to 68 percent--20 points higher than what Barack Obama gets right now in the USA. Above all else, the people did not want to get into another freaking war.
That's one thing some historians are trying remind everyone about Chamberlain these days. Making the deal with Hitler looks bad now, because we know how the movie ends. Not so easy at the time, when Chamberlain was at the head of a country whose military was in no shape to fight, and the only ones who had offered to stand with him if he threw down against the Nazis were the freaking French. There were no good options on the table.
So instead, he came back home from making the deal with Hitler having bought a period of peace that he spent rapidly building the military that would eventually be strong enough to repel the Nazis. And by the way, the main reason they were able to mobilize so quickly was because of an earlier national program to modernize the nation's factories. A program put in place by... Neville Chamberlain.
The debate rages among historians (and will probably rage in the comments) but the guy probably deserves better than to have his name thrown around as the political equivalent of "pussy."
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And check out some awesome leaders with awesomely heinous records, in 6 Great US Presidents and Their Crimes Against Humanity. Or check out the deceit that was spoon-fed to you while you were growing up, in The 5 Most Ridiculous Lies You Were Taught In History Class.
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