not even if space were left, should his after days be told.
It is not for them that we remember and bless him. The further we recede from him, the more they sink away and leave him shining in his greatness at Appomattox
, a hero in a soldier's dress, with sword not drawn, but sheathed.
There his figure stands immortal, and there his real life ends.
For living is action up to the soul's highest excellence, and many who eat their three meals a day are dead as door-nails.
rose to his full height again only when he came to die. As president, he was no more himself than he had been when tanning leather.
Men far less worthy have sat more worthily in the White House
It was foretold — silently.
, his dear friend, was set against it, and would not say a word for it. Did he not know the world's great soldiers, and what babies they became
latest of all?
More still, he knew his friend.
But we Americans
, the most consistently inconsistent people on earth, have passed a century in abusing our army, and in electing every military hero we could get for president: Washington
was taken from us, no man was so loved as Grant
; and, therefore, without asking or caring to know how he could have learned statesmanship, in our gratitude we twice gave him the greatest gift we have.
Before this happened, his straightforward goodness and the power that he had did much to heal the scars of war. Andrew Johnson
tried for treason, and Grant
stopped it by threatening to resign his commission.
In those days the Southern General Taylor
writes of him: “He came frequently to see me, was full of kindness, and anxious to promote my wishes.
His action had endeared
him to all Southern men. His bearing and conduct at this time were admirable, modest, and generous.
He declared his ignorance of and distrust for politics and politicians, with which and whom he intended to have nothing to do.”
did not better Grant
's opinion of politicians — nor did those men who now led the South
far and wide astray from the noble spirit of Lee
Their continued malignity lost them a great chance, and cost the South
Following their manifesto at Richmond
, already quoted, they now met each step of clemency with a temper which is completely heralded in the words of Henry A. Wise
when he surrendered: “We won't be forgiven.
We hate you, and that is the whole of it!”
They now, with an arrogance which our language has no word to express, demanded to return to Congress on the old slave ratio.
This gave white
owners the benefit of their slaves by adding three-fifths of the number of the black non-voting population to the sum of the white voting population.
Slaves were free now, but this was the arrangement which the South
proposed to continue.
Let the reader pause, and take it in. Johnson
, for personal reasons, encouraged it, and alarmed Congress.
Naturally, the North
lost patience; and Grant
lost his patience, too. This swept away the Fourteenth Amendment, an admirable device by which any State could deny a vote to a part of its male population on condition that its representation in Congress was proportionately reduced
. This elastic remedy, which held hope, was destroyed by the precipitate deplorable blunder of the Fifteenth Amendment, the evils of which have stained our soil with increasing blood each year, and developed that barbarism of which the South
has had too great a share from the beginning.
when leaders came to Grant
offering him the presidency, either he forgot his opinion of politics, or (and signs point to this) he thought (as another hero has thought since) that being president was an easy matter.
None of us can measure such a temptation without having it. As General Taylor
writes, “Perhaps none but a divine being can resist such a temptation.”
Strange, very strange, is Grant
's conduct after his election.
He left the world.
He went into a sort of retreat at Galena
He would see no party leaders.
He ordered no letter sent to him. He would make no speeches.
He disclosed his plans to no one.
We can only guess his thoughts during this time by his acts following it. They were honest — and helpless.
Evidently, he wished to govern without politics, as he had made war without politics.
He wished to choose men as he had chosen generals — for their fitness as he judged
He did not perceive the vast difference: that war at once lays bare a soldier's fitness to the bone, while peace may hide incompetence and dishonesty for many years.
As an illustration of Grant
's total blindness to the proprieties of civil government, his choosing Mr. Stewart Secretary of the Treasury
He very naturally thought so great a merchant would fill the place well.
He appointed him without consulting him. The Senate confirmed the appointment.
Then a law was discovered forbidding men in foreign trade to hold this position.
asked to have the law changed!
But we will not dwell upon his many improprieties of administration — favouritism, too constant acceptance of presents, too great obstinacy in forcing his notions, invincible misunderstanding of the difference between a lieutenant general and a president.
It may be said that, when he happened upon good
guides, such as Hamilton Fish
, his acts were wise, as in the Alabama
case, where he was as right as Sumner
was wrong, or as in his courageous veto of the inflation bill in 1874.
When he listened to thieves and impostors, as in the San Domingo
matter, his acts were mistaken and dangerous.
unchanged from his childhood innocence revealed in the horse story, he remained such a mark for thieves and impostors that he came to sit in a sort of centre of corruption, credulous to the bitter end. For the end was the bitterest of all.
After his second term, when he had gone round the world, and met most of the great people in it, and returned man enough of the world to remark humourously that at Windsor
Queen Victoria had been too anxious to put him at his ease, and after his unwilling candidacy for a third term had been frustrated,--after all his experience, he fell a dupe to a Wall Street
He became a
His name was used to further a brazen scheme of thievery.
Into the business he put a hundred thousand dollars, and drew two and three thousand a month income without wondering how such returns could be. When the crash came on May 6, 1884, it was inconceivable to the world at first that he was not guilty.
Presently by his conduct and statements, by his making over to his creditor, Mr. Vanderbilt
, all the property that he owned, and refusing Mr. Vanderbilt
's generous attempts to give it back to him, the world recognised his innocence.
Help was offered this ex-president who had not now enough money to pay the milkman.
Most touchingly, a stranger, Mr. Wood
, sent him instantly five hundred dollars, and soon five hundred more, as his share of the nation's debt to him. More elaborate attempts to assist him were begun, but he rejected them.
And under the whole shock his body gave way. But
his spirit rose.
He was asked to write war articles, and presently was able to pay Mr. Wood
with the first-fruits of his pen. Then for weeks, sometimes in such torture from the cancer in his throat that drinking water was like swallowing molten lead to him, he fought death away while he wrote his memoirs.
The tribute of the country in making him general once more on March 4, 1885, deeply pleased him; but he was shaken by it, and grew worse.
Reviving, however, his vast will pushed on with the book, in order to leave something for his wife's support.
He had no voice any more, but whispered his dictation, and wrote on days when he was strong enough.
He held death away until the book was finished, and then gave death leave to come.
In June he had been taken up the Hudson River
to Mount McGregor, near Saratoga
, from his New York house.
His eyes followed West Point
as the train passed by it. On
July 3 his old friend Buckner
, of Donelson
, came affectionately to bid him farewell; and he spoke of his happiness in the growing harmony between North and South.
On July 9, in a trembling pencil, he wrote to Mr. Wood
: “I am glad to say that, while there is much unblushing wickedness in this world, yet there is a compensating generosity and grandeur of soul.
In my case I have not found that republics are ungrateful, nor are the people.”
On July 23 he died.
To pay his debts, he had so utterly stripped himself of all his trophies and possessions that there was not left a uniform to clothe his body or a sword to lay upon his coffin.
To-day he rests in his tomb at Riverside
But his greatest visible monument is the book.
Quite apart from its history, which here and there needs amendment, and quite independent of its masterly prose, it is a picture of a noble, modest, great heart.
, “How does it all sum up” Let poetry, which is the summing of all substance, reply :--
My good blade carves the casques of men,
My tough lance thrusteth sure,
My strength is as the strength of ten,
Because my heart is pure.