there was a positive antagonism between Grant
Their characters were as unlike as their policies and achievements.
During the last months of the war Seward
paid a visit at Grant
's headquarters at City Point
, and while there he told me a story which illustrates more than one point in his character.
He was describing the alarm and anxiety of the North
in the autumn of 1864.
For months Grant
had accomplished nothing in front of Richmond
had forced Sherman
to retrace his steps from Atlanta
, and Early
had nearly captured Washington
The opponents of the Government
at the North
made the most of the situation for political purposes.
The elections were approaching, and a Cabinet council was held.
It was necessary, Seward
said, to throw something overboard in order to save the ship, and Emancipation was to be the Jonah.
He was selected, he told me, to make the sacrifice, and proceeded to Auburn
, where he delivered the speech which many will remember, re-opening the whole question of slavery and Emancipation, when the States should return to the Union
‘When the insurgents,’ he said, ‘shall have disbanded their armies and laid down their arms, the war will instantly cease; and all the war measures then existing, including those which affect slavery, will cease also; and all the moral, economical, and political questions, as well questions affecting slavery as others, which shall then be existing between individuals and States and the Federal Government
, whether they arose before the Civil War
began, or whether they grew out of it, will by force of the Constitution
, pass over to the arbitrament of courts of law, and to the councils of legislation.’
So spoke the Secretary of State
a year and a half after the proclamation of Emancipation had been made.
A few days later he returned to Washington
, and soon the news was brought of Sheridan
's victory at Winchester
took the telegram to the President
It was long past midnight, and Lincoln
came to the door of his bedroom in his nightgown.
There he held the candle while the Secretary of State
read to him the great intelligence.
The President was delighted, of course, at the victory, but Seward
exclaimed: ‘And what, Mr. President
, is to become of me?’
He told me this story, I suppose, to illustrate his spirit of self-sacrifice, but when I repeated it to Grant
the soldier looked at the act in a different light.
He thought the sacrifice of principle should not have been made, and was shocked that Seward
could have thought of himself at such a crisis.
believed in sacrificing even political principle to the success of a great cause, or the salvation of a country.
He said to me at this time: ‘Nations have never more virtue than just enough to save themselves.’
's course under somewhat similar circumstances was different.
He often told me of the pressure brought to induce him to sign what was known as the Inflation Act
. Personal and political friends of importance assured him that his refusal would be fatal to Republican success at the polls, and although his judgment was opposed to the measure, he finally wrote out a message approving the bill.
He even read the message to his Cabinet, but in writing and reading it the weakness of his forced reasoning became more apparent than ever.
He could not bring himself to do violence to his own convictions.
That night he tore up the message and wrote another which contained the veto that forever defeated Inflation.
Each of these men had in his own way accomplished great
things for the State
was an adroit and intellectual strategist, a man born with the instincts and used to the arts of diplomacy; a statesman who had aimed at the highest place, but when he failed in his aim, had humbled himself to take a secondary post, in which he conceived and carried out an international policy for his triumphant rival; a man who after the war and the success of the principles and the party with whom and for whom he had battled half a lifetime, found himself suddenly in the Cabinet
of a Southerner determined to bring the defeated Southerners back to the position and the power they had enjoyed before they rebelled; and Seward
not only acquiesced in the design, but aided it with all the skill and intellect he had once employed on the other side.
There was nothing in such a character or career to attract or to assimilate with Grant
, who was by nature blunt and plain in word and act; a soldier to the core; unused to bending when he could not break, and ignorant of any means to accomplish his purposes but the most direct and forcible.
Even in war he had been less of a strategist than a fighter, and he carried the same characteristics into civil affairs.
Indeed whenever later in his political career he was induced by political associates to lay aside his own peculiar directness and attempt manoeuvring he failed.
His ways were never those of diplomacy, nor even of legitimate craft.
The more of a technical politician he became, the less was his hold on the people, and the less the success he achieved.
When he returned to his native straightforwardness and outspokenness his influence and popularity were regained.
Such a man could not appreciate Johnson
's Secretary of State
had succeeded by temporizing and negotiating, by patience and subtle skill, by submitting to what was inevitable and obtaining whatever was attainable, in at first postponing, and at last preventing, the active intervention of England
in favor of the South
during the War
; and he hoped afterward to secure the withdrawal of
by the same means.
But to Grant
this seemed to indicate indifference to the result, and he finally came to believe that Seward
was willing for Maximilian
Here was their first open difference.
They were antagonists apparently even in aim, and certainly in means and methods and manner.
The consequence was not only a marked divergence of opinion, but on Grant
's part, a coolness of feeling that lasted for years and was never entirely removed.
But though Grant
at times could hardly force himself to be civil, and disliked even to go to Seward's house, the courteous Secretary
kept up his visits and his compliments.
, in his ‘Twenty Years of Congress,’ attributes to Seward
the conception of Johnson
's entire scheme of restoring the States, but Grant
never gave Seward
credit for the plan.
He thought it the child of Johnson
's brain, developed by the situation in which he found himself, of a humble Southerner suddenly raised to a position in which he could dispense essential favors to those who had always seemed his superiors but now courted him for their own purposes.
in his ‘Memoirs’ speaks of Johnson
as a ‘President
who at first aimed to revenge himself upon Southern men of better social standing than himself, but who still sought their recognition, and in a short time conceived the idea and advanced the proposition to become their Moses
to lead them triumphantly out of all their difficulties.’
I remember once returning to him from the White House
, and describing to him what I had seen; the antechamber of the tailor-President crowded with magnates of the South
and Richard Taylor
and others of that sort, waiting for a chance to ask to be pardoned.
, like every other human being, was sometimes unjust in his judgments, and did not always allow the credit of the highest motives to those who opposed him. He thought Johnson
was affected by the influences I have
described, and that Seward
for the sake of place and power followed in the political somersault.
No word intimating a belief that Seward
's policy ever escaped him in my hearing, either in the excited intercourse of the time or in the deliberate discussions of later years.
It is needless to say that Grant
intellectual and able; and of course he never dreamed of denying his patriotism; but the genius of the one was so diametrically opposed to that of the other that Grant
could not do justice to the considerations, whether of legitimate ambition or lofty statesmanship, that may have actuated Seward
He was too intensely himself to be sympathetic.
He could not put himself into Seward
He could not understand how Seward
could reverse the feelings and principles of a lifetime to remain in Johnson
He could not perceive that Seward
, once the bugbear of the slave-holders, might take an exquisite pleasure in the thought that they owed their exemption from many misfortunes to the man they had so long and so bitterly reviled.
But although Grant
only a follower of Johnson
in the Reconstruction policy, he certainly believed that many of the devices of Johnson
were due to Seward
He did not think Johnson
clever enough to initiate all the craft that gave the country and Congress so much trouble and alarm.
Many of the acutest arguments in defense of Johnson Grant
thought were in reality perversions of Seward
's intellect in an unworthy cause; and the effort to send Grant
he always attributed to Seward
The conception was worthy of the diplomatic Secretary
, to whom it would fall to carry out the device if it succeeded; for if Grant
had accepted the position pressed upon him he must have received his instructions from Seward
, who had opposed and defeated Grant
's Mexican policy.
Those instructions, in fact, were written out, and Seward
once began to read them in Cabinet, but Grant
refused to hear them.
Even after this they were forwarded to Grant
through the Secretary of War
, but were finally turned over to Sherman
It would indeed have been a Machiavellian triumph to have got rid of Grant
at that juncture in affairs at home and at the same time forced him to carry out Seward
's policy in Mexico
But though, as I have said, Grant
never got over his dislike of Seward
's course, either in the Mexican
matter or in the general policy of the Administration, Seward
was determined not to quarrel with Grant
He was never personally conspicuous in the stratagems which Grant
was obliged to contest, and even at the crisis of the relations between Grant
, when other Cabinet Ministers
ranged themselves on the side of the President
contrived to write a letter not entirely unsatisfactory to his chief, while yet he refrained from giving the lie to Grant
Thus their relations, although after this period never intimate, were not absolutely interrupted.
Some of Seward
's admirers even proposed to Grant
, when he became President-elect, to invite Seward
to remain in the State Department, but he never entertained the idea
I remember a dinner at the house of Mr. Thornton
, the British Minister
, given after Grant
's election, at which Seward
sat on the right of the host and Grant
on the left; and Seward
remarked, as he took his seat, ‘After the 4th of March, General, you and I will be obliged to exchange places at table.’
But there were many even then who placed General Grant
above the Secretary of State
, and Grant
himself, in more important matters than rank or etiquette, was asserting his own consequence.
He had endeavored, as I have shown, to prevent the host who was then entertaining them from negotiating a treaty with Seward
, and he had striven successfully to lessen the influence of Seward
's Minister to Mexico
Still the honors were divided.
in what the soldier had so much at heart,—the forcible expulsion of Maximilian
, accomplishing the overthrow of the empire by diplomatic means, though he risked, as Grant
believed, the existence of the Mexican Republic
; but Seward
himself was defeated in the great object of Johnson
's Administration,—the Reconstruction policy; and in this defeat Grant
was the principal figure and instrument.
's election, indeed, was the seal of Seward
's and Johnson
Up to the last their differences continued.
In sending Rosecrans
must have known the affront he offered Grant
, and by the rejection of the Clarendon-Johnson Treaty
, which Grant
did so much to accomplish, the final effort of Seward
's diplomacy was foiled.
But, after all, both were patriots, both were indispensable to the salvation of the State
's victories would have been useless, if not impossible, unless Seward
's skill had stayed the hostile and impatient hands of England
; and Seward
's diplomacy required Vicksburg
and the Wilderness
to be of any avail.
once said to Sickles
, when they were discussing the battle of Gettysburg
, ‘There is glory enough to go all around.’
Nevertheless, it is well to tell the whole truth about great men in great emergencies.