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How To Memorize the Presidents in 46 Simple Steps


Step 1: George Washington: During the French and Indian War, when he was fighting for the British, the British gave him this tutor named Edward Braddock and were like “we’re gonna send you on a crazy stupid campaign with this guy so you can watch this guy’s brilliant victory and leeeeeeeaaaarn.” Then Braddock died and Washington had to rescue the entire army. I don’t think he learned that much.

Step 2: John Adams: Tried to make himself a dictator by banning the criticism of government officials. He also tried to stop immigrants from entering the US. He smushed these into one act called the Alien and Sedition Acts. So basically he tried to fuel racial division and consolidate power at the same time. Sound familiar?

Step 3: Thomas Jefferson: Tried to write a condemnation of slavery into the Declaration of Independence even though he owned slaves and procreated with a bunch of them. He also helped pass the Non-Intercourse Act.

Step 4: James Madison: Started a second war with Great Britain in 1812 because apparently he thought fighting in the first war with Britain wasn’t enough. Got the White House burned down but somehow Americans were still like: “wow, this guy is re-electable!”

Step 5: James Monroe: So popular he literally ran against himself for reelection. Wasn’t that hard. Also, he’s in that painting of Washington crossing the Delaware carrying the American flag, and he’s the only one in the picture besides Washington who isn’t rowing the boat.

Step 6: John Quincy Adams: First son of a former president. (wow, this early at number six? What nepotism!) He also served in Congress after being president and was probably more influential there. He famously shouted “no!” in the Senate instead of the customary “nay” during a vote on a bill he particularly disagreed with, then immediately collapsed due to a cerebral hemorrhage.

Step 7: Andrew Jackson: Was targeted in an assassination, but both the assassin’s pistols jammed (lucky for Jackson, unfortunate for the Native Americans). The 70-year-old Jackson proceeded to beat the assassin with a cane so hard that his security guards had to pull him off. According to Mr. Ross, this was the only time in American history where the president’s guards had to protect the assassin from the president.

Step 8: Martin Van Buren: Popularized the term “Okay” in his campaign. He wasn’t even an okay president though since he continued Andrew Jackson’s horrendous Trail of Tears (you’ve definitely learned this if you’ve taken APUSH or any US history course)

Step 9: William Henry Harrison: A general who became popular by burning down a Native American village. He decided to give the longest ever inauguration in US history even though there was a blizzard going on. That gave him pneumonia, which killed him less than a month into his term. These generals really don’t know self-care.

Step 10: John Tyler: The first president not to be elected and the only president to have been buried with the Confederate flag rather than a Union one. Also, his grandson is still alive because he liked having kids at 60 years old and apparently that son also had the same habit. (Note: he was president in the 1840s, which, if you count the years, was a pretty long time ago.)

Step 11: James K. Polk: Had a surgery to remove a urinary bladder stone at the age of 17. What was he ingesting? Polk was so good at being president that he completed everything he wanted in his first term, and didn’t run for reelection. Of course, all his goals were related to expansion and of American territory at the expense of the Native Americans and getting into wars with other countries, but we don’t have to talk about that.

Step 12: Zachary Taylor: Became popular fighting a war, then died of stomach disease as president. Valuable lesson: Make war, not love. Also there were so many conspiracy theories that he was poisoned that historians dug up his body and tested it. Turns out he probably died of contaminated cherries.

Step 13: Millard Fillmore: Had many similarities with John Tyler. Both succeeded predecessors who died in office. Both were Whig politicians who the party refused to renominate because they approved of slavery. Something tells me they weren’t good presidents.

Step 14: Franklin Pierce: “There is nothing left to do but get drunk.” People say he’s a bad president, but he actually lived a life of tragedy. Days before his presidency, his son was killed and nearly decapitated in a train crash, and his vice president died within 1 month of taking office. He witnessed the death of his wife and three of his children. It’s no wonder he constantly resorted to drinking and even lost to Buchanan for renomination.

Step 15: James Buchanan: Shared a bed with Franklin Pierce’s vice president William King in college and then never got married. He also thought the south would never secede from the union. He also started a war with the Mormons for no reason and tried convincing America to annex Cuba in the Ostend Manifesto, which was super unpopular. (Actually, Buchanan helped write the Ostend Manifesto during the Pierce administration, which was so unpopular that it caused Pierce to lose his job, which Buchanan then promptly took).

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