Distory: A Treasury of Historical Insults

Distory: A Treasury of Historical Insults

by Robert Schnakenberg

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Overview

Distory: A Treasury of Historical Insults by Robert Schnakenberg

Distory: A Treasury of Historical Insults is a hilarious collection of insulting historical quotations in the vein of The Portable Curmudgeon that will have history buffs and readers of humor books in stitches. Full of lively quips, jabs, jaunts and put downs by and about notable figures, it covers all epochs of mostly Western history. Schnakenberg has collected more than 600 historical insults into this first collection of its kind.

Included:
"A German singer! I should as soon expect to get pleasure from the neighing of my horse."
- Alexander the Great

"Belgium is just a country invented by the British to annoy the French."
- Charles de Gaulle

"What can you do with a man who looks like a female llama surprised when bathing?"
- Winston Churchill on Charles de Gaulle

"Jerry Ford is so dumb he can't fart and chew gum at the same time."
- Lyndon B. Johnson

"Avoid all needle drugs - -the only dope worth shooting is Richard Nixon."
- Abbie Hoffman

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781466862647
Publisher: St. Martin's Press
Publication date: 01/14/2014
Sold by: Macmillan
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 192
File size: 180 KB

About the Author

Robert Schnakenberg is the author of several popular biographies, including the acclaimed Encyclopedia Shatnerica, the first A-Z guide to the life and career of William Shatner, and a frequent contributor to pop culture and reference publications such as Contemporary Authors, The Grolier Library of International Biographies, The St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture and Bowling, Beatnicks, and Bell-Bottoms: Pop Culture of the 20th Century.

Read an Excerpt

CHAPTER 1

DISUNITED STATES

FEUDIN' FOUNDERS

We have a tendency to look back at America's Founding Fathers as paragons of civil discourse. But the written record they left behind paints a decidedly less polite picture. Politics, it seems, has always been a contact sport....

This man has no principles, public or private. As a politician, his sole spring of action is an inordinate ambition.

— ALEXANDER HAMILTON, ON AARON BURR

I never thought him an honest, frank-dealing man, but considered him as a crooked gun ... whose aim or shot you could never be sure of.

— THOMAS JEFFERSON, ON AARON BURR

The bastard brat of a Scotch peddler.

A man devoid of every principle.

— JOHN ADAMS, ON ALEXANDER HAMILTON

A man without head and without heart — the mere shadow of a man!

— JOHN ADAMS, ON JOHN HANCOCK

What a poor, ignorant, malicious, shortsighted, crapulous mass, is Tom Paine's Common Sense.

— JOHN ADAMS, ON TOM PAINE

[That] mere adventurer from England, without fortune, without family or connections, ignorant even of grammar.

— GOUVERNEUR MORRIS, U.S. STATESMAN, ON TOM PAINE

[His] inveteracy is profound, and his mind of that gloomy malignity which will never let him forego the opportunity of satiating it on a victim.

— THOMAS JEFFERSON, ON JOHN MARSHALL, CHIEF JUSTICE OF THE SUPREME COURT

You and I were long friends; you are now my enemy, and I am YOURS,

B. FRANKLIN,

— IN A LETTER TO WILLIAM STRAHAN, PRINTER AND PATRON OF THE ARTS

A crafty and lecherous old hypocrite whose very statue seems to gloat on the wenches as they walk the States House Yard.

— WILLIAM COBBETT, BRITISH RADICAL JOURNALIST, ON BENJAMIN FRANKLIN

Cobbett wasn't the only one to take swipes at the bespectacled, grandfatherly figure one recent biographer dubbed "the First American." Though beloved by many through the centuries, Franklin has had his share of detractors as well. ... A philosophical Quaker full of mean and thrifty maxims.

— JOHN KEATS, BRITISH POET

Benjamin Franklin, incarnation of the peddling, tuppenny Yankee.

— JEFFERSON DAVIS, CONFEDERATE PRESIDENT

He is our wise prophet of chicanery, the great buffoon.

— WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS, U.S. POET

SPITE HOUSE

Never a people to stand on ceremony, Americans began insulting their presidents as soon as they started electing them. Some of the most baleful tidings came from fellow members of the White House fraternity — Teddy Roosevelt's comments about Woodrow Wilson alone could probably fill up an entire book (and quite an entertaining one at that).

One of the curious things one notes in looking over these quotations is that some of America's most highly regarded chief executives seem to have inspired the most bilious insults. Perhaps a "shooting fish in a barrel" principle is at work here. After all, anyone can take a potshot at, say, Warren Harding, but it takes a refined animus to lob insults at a Washington or a Lincoln. As this chief-by-chief rundown suggests, there has been no shortage of volunteers in either case. ...

GEORGE WASHINGTON (1789–1797)

That Washington was not a scholar is certain. That he is too illiterate, unlearned, unread for his station is equally beyond dispute.

— JOHN ADAMS

That dark, designing, sordid, ambitious, vain, proud, arrogant, and vindictive knave.

— GEN. CHARLES LEE, REVOLUTIONARY COMMANDER

If ever a nation was debauched by a man, the American nation has been debauched by Washington. ... If ever a nation was deceived by a man, the American nation has been deceived by Washington.

— BENJAMIN FRANKLIN BACHE, U.S. JOURNALIST AND GRANDSON OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN

[A]nd as to you, sir, treacherous in private friendship ... and a hypocrite in public life, the world will be puzzled to decide whether you are an apostate or an imposter, whether you have abandoned good principles, or whether you ever had?

— TOM PAINE

Insane.

— JAMES MONROE

JOHN ADAMS (1797–1801)

It has been the political career of this man to begin with hypocrisy, proceed with arrogance, and finish with contempt.

— TOM PAINE

He is distrustful, obstinate, excessively vain, and takes no counsel from anyone ... He is vain, irritable, and a bad calculator of the force and probable effect of the motives which govern men.

— THOMAS JEFFERSON

Always an honest man, often a great one, but sometimes absolutely mad.

— BENJAMIN FRANKLIN

You have no idea of the meanness, indecency, almost insanity of his conduct.

— ALBERT GALLATIN, U.S. TREASURY SECRETARY, IN A LETTER TO HIS WIFE

A ruffian deserving of the curses of mankind.

— BENJAMIN FRANKLIN BACHE, U.S. JOURNALIST AND GRANDSON OF BENJAMIN FRANKLIN

I should be deficient in candor were I to conceal the conviction, that he does not possess the talents adapted to the administration of government, and that there are great and intrinsic defects in his character which unfit him for the office of Chief Magistrate.

Petty, mean, egotistic, erratic, eccentric, jealous natured, and hot tempered.

— ALEXANDER HAMILTON

The reign of Mr. Adams has, hitherto, been one continued tempest of malignant passions. As president, he has never opened his lips, or lifted his pen, without threatening and scolding. The grand object of his administration has been to exasperate the rage of contending parties, to calumniate and destroy every man who differs from his opinions.

— JAMES CALLENDER, U.S. JOURNALIST

Whether he is spiteful, playful, witty, kind, cold, drunk, sober, angry, easy, stiff, jealous, cautious, close, open, it is always in the wrong place or to the wrong person.

— JAMES MCHENRY, SECRETARY OF WAR IN ADAMS'S ADMINISTRATION

God forgive me for the vile thought, but I cannot help thinking of a monkey just put into breeches when I see him betray such evident marks of self-conceit.

— WILLIAM MACLAY, U.S. SENATOR

It's just that he wasn't very special.

— HARRY S TRUMAN

THOMAS JEFFERSON (1801–1809)

The moral character of Jefferson was repulsive. Continually puling about liberty, equality, and the degrading curse of slavery, he brought his own children to the hammer, and money of his debaucheries.

— ALEXANDER HAMILTON

Instead of being the ardent pursuer of science some think him, he is indolent and his soul is poisoned with ambition.

It is with much reluctance that I am obliged to look upon him as a man whose mind is warped by prejudice and so blinded by ignorance as to be unfit for the office he holds. However wise and scientific as philosopher, as a politician he is a child and a dupe of the party.

— JOHN ADAMS

A slur upon the moral government of the world.

— JOHN QUINCY ADAMS

Perhaps the most incapable executive that ever filled the presidential chair ... it would be difficult to imagine a man less fit to guide the state with honor and safety through the stormy times that marked the opening of the present century.

— THEODORE ROOSEVELT

JAMES MADISON (1809–1817)

A withered little applejohn.

— WASHINGTON IRVING

I do not like his looks any better than I like his administration.

— DANIEL WEBSTER

JAMES MONROE (1817–1825)

One of the most improper and incompetent that could be selected [for president]. Naturally dull and stupid; extremely illiterate; indecisive to a degree that would be incredible to one who did not know him ... he has no opinion on any subject and will always be under the government of the worst men.

— AARON BURR

[H]is talents were exercised not in grandeur but in mediocrity.

— ARTHUR STYRON, U.S. AUTHOR

A mere tool in the hands of the French government.

— GEORGE WASHINGTON

A pretty minor president. In spite of the Monroe Doctrine. That's the only important thing he ever did more or less on his own, when you really get down to it.

— HARRY S TRUMAN

JOHN QUINCY ADAMS (1825–1829)

His disposition is as perverse and mulish as that of his father.

— JAMES BUCHANAN

It is said he is a disgusting man to do business. Coarse, dirty, clownish in his address, and stiff and abstracted in his opinions, which are drawn from books exclusively.

— WILLIAM HENRY HARRISON

Of all the men whom it was ever my lot to accost and to waste civilities upon, [he] was the most doggedly and systematically repulsive.

— W. H. LYTTLETON, GOVERNOR OF NORTH CAROLINA

I just don't think there were any events in Adams's administration that were very interesting.

— HARRY S TRUMAN

ANDREW JACKSON (1829–1837)

I feel much alarmed at the prospect of seeing General Jackson president. He is the most unfit man I know for such a place ... he is a dangerous man.

— THOMAS JEFFERSON

He is ignorant, passionate, hypocritical, corrupt, and easily swayed by the basest men who surround him.

I cannot believe that the killing of two thousand Englishmen at New Orleans qualifies a person for the various difficult and complicated duties of the presidency.

Except [for] an enormous fabric of executive power for himself, the president has built up nothing, constructed nothing, and will leave no enduring monument of his administration. He goes for destruction, universal destruction; and it seems to be his greatest ambition to efface and obliterate every trace of the wisdom of his predecessors.

— HENRY CLAY

A barbarian who cannot write a sentence of grammar and can hardly spell his own name.

Incompetent both by his ignorance and by the fury of his passions.

— JOHN QUINCY ADAMS

Little advanced in civilization over the Indians with whom he made war.

— ELIJAH HUNT MILLS, U.S. SENATOR

MARTIN VAN BUREN (1837–1841)

His principles are all subordinate to his ambitions.

— JOHN QUINCY ADAMS

Mr. Van Buren became offended with me at the beginning of my administration because I chose to exercise my own judgment in the selection of my own cabinet, and would not be controlled by him and suffer him to select it for me. Mr. Van Buren is the most fallen man I have ever known.

— JAMES K. POLK

Van Buren is as opposite to General Jackson as dung is to diamond. ... He is what the English call a dandy. When he enters the Senate chamber in the morning, he struts and swaggers like a crow in the gutter. He is laced up in corsets, such as women in town wear, and, if possible, tighter than the best of them. It would be difficult to say, from his personal appearance, whether he was man or woman, but for his large red and gray whiskers.

— DAVY CROCKETT

He is not ... of the race of the lion or the tiger; he belongs to a lower order: the fox.

— JOHN C. CALHOUN

He rowed to his object with muffled oars.

— JOHN RANDOLPH, U.S. SENATOR

He was just a politician and nothing more, a politician who was out of his depth.

— HARRY S TRUMAN

WILLIAM HENRY HARRISON (1841)

He is as tickled with the presidency as is a young woman with a new bonnet.

— MARTIN VAN BUREN

Our Present Imbecile Chief.

— ANDREW JACKSON

[An] active but shallow mind, a political adventurer not without talents but self-sufficient, vain, and indiscreet.

The greatest beggar and the most troublesome of all the office seekers during my administration was General Harrison.

— JOHN QUINCY ADAMS

Some folks are silly enough to have formed a plan to make a president of the U.S. out of this clerk and clodhopper.

— WILLIAM HENRY HARRISON, ON HIMSELF

Harrison didn't accomplish a thing during the month he was in office. He made no contribution whatsoever. He had no policy. He didn't know what the government was about, to tell the truth. About the only thing he did during that brief period was see friends and friends of friends, because he was such an easy mark that he couldn't say no to anybody, and everybody and his brother was beseeching him for jobs.

— HARRY S TRUMAN

JOHN TYLER (1841–1845)

A slave-monger whose talents are not above mediocrity, and with a spirit incapable of expansion to the dimensions of the station upon which he has been cast by the hand of providence.

— JOHN QUINCY ADAMS

A politician of monumental littleness.

— THEODORE ROOSEVELT

He was a contrary old son of a bitch.

— HARRY S TRUMAN

JAMES K. POLK (1845–1849)

May God save the country, for it is evident that the people will not.

— MILLARD FILLMORE, ON POLK'S ELECTION TO THE PRESIDENCY

I never betrayed a friend or was guilty of the black sin of ingratitude. Mr. Polk cannot say as much.

— ANDREW JACKSON

A victim of the use of water as a beverage.

— SAM HOUSTON

Polk ... is just qualified for an eminent County Court lawyer. ... He has no wit, no literature, no point of argument, no gracefulness of delivery, no eloquence of language, no philosophy, no pathos, no felicitous impromptus; nothing that can constitute an orator, but confidence, fluency, and labor.

— JOHN QUINCY ADAMS

A bewildered, confounded, and miserably perplexed man.

— ABRAHAM LINCOLN

He has a set of interested parasites about him, who flatter him until he does not know himself. He seems to be acting upon the principle of hanging an old friend for the purpose of making two new ones.

— ANDREW JOHNSON

ZACHARY TAYLOR (1849–1850)

General Taylor is, I have no doubt, a well-meaning old man. He is, however, uneducated, exceedingly ignorant of public affairs, and I should judge, of very ordinary capacity.

— JAMES K. POLK

Quite ignorant for his rank, and quite bigoted in his ignorance.

— WINFIELD SCOTT, U.S. GENERAL AND POLITICIAN

Old Zack is a good old soul, but don't know himself from a side of sole leather in the way of statesmanship.

— HORACE GREELEY

A most simple-minded old man. ... It is remarkable that such a man should be president of the United States.

— HORACE MANN, U.S. EDUCATOR

One of the do-nothing presidents.

— HARRY S TRUMAN

MILLARD FILLMORE (1850–1853)

A vain and handsome mediocrity.

— GLYNDON G. VAN DEUSEN, U.S. BIOGRAPHER

He was a man who changed with the wind, and as president of the United States he didn't do anything that's worth pointing out.

— HARRY S TRUMAN

FRANKLIN PIERCE (1853–1857)

A small politician, of low capacity and mean surroundings, proud to act as the servile tool of men worse than himself but also stronger and abler.

— THEODORE ROOSEVELT

Whoever may be elected, we cannot get a poorer cuss than now disgraces the presidential chair!

— BENJAMIN BROWN FRENCH, CLERK OF THE U.S. HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

A complete fizzle. ... Pierce didn't know what was going on, and even if he had, he wouldn't have known what to do about it.

— HARRY S TRUMAN

JAMES BUCHANAN (1857–1861)

There is no such person running as James Buchanan. He is dead of lockjaw. Nothing remains but a platform and a bloated mass of political putridity.

— THADDEUS STEVENS, U.S. CONGRESSMAN

The Constitution provides for every accidental contingency in the executive — except a vacancy in the mind of the president.

— JOHN SHERMAN, U.S. SENATOR

All his acts and opinions seem to be with a view to his own advancement. ... Mr. Buchanan is an able man, but is in small matters without judgment and sometimes acts like an old maid.

— JAMES K. POLK

Buchanan ... hesitated and backtracked and felt that his constitutional prerogative didn't allow him to do things, and he ended up doing absolutely nothing and threw everything into Lincoln's lap.

— HARRY S TRUMAN

ABRAHAM LINCOLN (1861–1865)

He is a huckster in politics; a first-rate second-rate man.

— WENDELL PHILLIPS, U.S. ABOLITIONIST

His mind works in the right directions but seldom works clearly and cleanly. His bread is of unbolted flour, and much straw, too, mixes in the bran, and sometimes gravel stones.

— HENRY WARD BEECHER, U.S. ABOLITIONIST AND CLERGYMAN

Filthy storyteller, despot, liar, thief, braggart, buffoon, usurper, monster, ignoramus Abe, old scoundrel, perjurer, swindler, tyrant, field-butcher, landpirate.

HARPERS MAGAZINE

Nothing more than a well-meaning baboon.

An offensive exhibition of boorishness and vulgarity.

I went to the White House shortly after tea where I found 'the original gorilla,' about as intelligent as ever. What a specimen to be at the head of our affairs now!

— GEN. GEORGE MCCLELLAN

To the extent of his limited ability and narrow intelligence the willing instrument [of the abolitionists] for all the woe which [has] thus far been brought upon the country and for all the degradation, all the atrocity, all the desolation and ruin.

— FRANKLIN PIERCE

This man's appearance, his pedigree, his coarse low jokes and anecdotes, his vulgar similes and his frivolity, are a disgrace to the seat he holds.

— JOHN WILKES BOOTH

ANDREW JOHNSON (1865–1869)

He is very vindictive and perverse in his temper and conduct.

— JAMES K. POLK

Every Rebel guerrilla and jayhawker, every man who ran to Canada to avoid the draft, every bounty hunter, every deserter, every cowardly sneak that ran from danger and disgraced his flag, every man who loves slavery and hates liberty ... and every villain, of whatever name or crime, who loves power more than justice, slavery more than freedom, is a Democrat and an endorser of Andrew Johnson.

— JAMES A. GARFIELD

(Continues…)



Excerpted from "Distory: A Treasury Of Historical Insults"
by .
Copyright © 2004 Robert Schnakenberg.
Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

TITLE PAGE,
COPYRIGHT NOTICE,
INTRODUCTION,
Chapter One: DISUNITED STATES,
Insults by and about notable Americans,
Chapter Two: BATTLES OF THE BRITONS,
Insults by and about notable Brits,
Chapter Three: WORDS OF WAR,
Insults by and about famous military figures,
Chapter Four: GOD, I HATE THE ENGLISH FRENCH RUSSIANS AMERICANS,
A panoply of national insults,
Chapter Five: SLAMAGUNDI,
Insulting miscellany from around the globe,
ALSO BY ROBERT SCHNAKENBERG,
COPYRIGHT,

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