Jamelle Bouie, at Slate – “How Did Ulysses S. Grant Become an Embarrassment of History and Robert E. Lee a Role Model?“:
… To millions of Americans, 150 years after the end of the Civil War, Lee is a role model and Grant is—despite his gifted generalship and consequential presidency—an embarrassment. What happened? How did the hero of the war become a quasi-ignominious figure, and how did the champion of Southern slavery become, if not the war’s hero, its most popular figure?
The answer begins with Reconstruction. As best as possible, President Grant was a firm leader of Reconstruction America. Faced with the titanic challenge of integrating freedmen into American politics, he attacked the problem with characteristic clarity and flexibility. He proposed civil rights legislation (and would be the last president to do so until Dwight D. Eisenhower, nearly a century later) and deployed troops to hot spots across the South, to defend black Americans from white supremacist violence.* And while there were failures—at times he was too passive in the face of white violence, too paralyzed by petty politics—there were real victories too. After Congress passed the Enforcement Acts—criminal codes that protected blacks’ 14th and 15th Amendment rights to vote, hold office, serve on juries, and receive equal protection of laws—Grant authorized federal troops to confront the Ku Klux Klan and other groups of anti-black terrorists. Declaring them “insurgents … in rebellion against the authority of the United States,” Grant and his subordinates—most notably Attorney General Amos Ackerman and the newly formed Department of Justice—broke the Klan and restored some peace to the Republican South…
Facing him was a phalanx of Southern sympathizers and former Confederates, from ex-president Jefferson Davis to polemical writers like Edward Pollard, who would give the name “Lost Cause” to the movement to redeem and defend the former Confederacy. Born out of grief and furthered by a generation of organizations (like United Confederate Veterans and the United Daughters of the Confederacy), proponents of the Lost Cause would wage a battle for the nation’s memory of the war…
Timothy Egan, in the NYTimes, on “Remains from Lincoln’s Last Day“:
… Now think of the legacy on this anniversary of the American passion play. Think of free land for the landless, the transcontinental railroad, the seeding of what would grow into national parks, the granting of human rights to people who had none.
And think of how much the party of Lincoln has turned against the expansive political philosophy of Lincoln…
Could the Republicans who control Congress in 2015, the party of no, ever pass a Homestead Act? That law, which went into effect the very day, Jan. 1, 1863, Lincoln’s wartime executive order to free slaves in the breakaway states did, carries a clause that very few Republicans would support now.
Former slaves, “famine Irish,” Russian Jews, single women, Mexicans who didn’t speak a word of English — all qualified to claim 160 acres as their own. You didn’t have to be a citizen to get your quarter-square-mile. You just had to intend to become a citizen.
In that sense, the Homestead Act was the Dream Act of today. It had a path to citizenship and prosperity for those in this country who were neither citizens nor prosperous…
Today, the South is solidly Republican and solidly obstructionist. The party is also solidly white. No, they’re not slave-apologists, though many fail to recognize the active, toxic legacy of the Confederacy. And no, their insults of President Obama — calling him a king, an incompetent, an outsider, echoing some of the slights against Lincoln — do not in any way make Obama the Lincoln of today.
But you can say this with certainty: what unites the Republican Party, on this 150th anniversary of the murder of Lincoln, is that they are against the type of progressive legislation that gave rise to their party. Lincoln is an oil painting in the parlor, to be dusted off while Republican leaders plot new ways to kill things that he would have approved of….
needs more omnes. always.
Good catches, Anne Laurie. Look very worth a read.
“No, they’re not slave-apologists, though many fail to recognize the active, toxic legacy of the Confederacy. ” I reject this statement completely. The former slave states represent the nation’s strongest bastion for “right to work” and “employment at will” laws, and they are the cradle of the “for-profit prison work farm.” The entire economic structure of the South is based on paying blue collar and service sector workers the absolute minimum possible, and most Southern elites are incensed at the existence of minimum wage laws. I am absolutely convinced that the 13th Amendment and a federal government willing to back it up with force if necessary is literally the only thing stopping the state of Mississippi (and several other former slave states) from reintroducing slavery asap.
Nice essay/blog post! Reconstruction was a fascinating time in American history and set the stage for race relations and for interparty political conflict for decades to come. It also was the beginning of domestic sedition and terrorism in America that redounds through the ages through knuckle-draggers like Timothy McVeigh and Cliven Bundy. We are a country deeply, deeply scarred by racism and, I suspect,we always will be.
A big part of why Grant’s historical image suffered is due to the rampant corruption among too many of the members and officials he appointed to serve during his Presidential administration. Even though there’s no question that Grant himself was other than a scrupulously honest man, he turned out to not be the best judge of personal or political character, and while he was good at running an army, he proved inept at running a political administration.
Mike in NC
If anything, the New Confederacy might have lost Virginia (for now at least) but has added Missouri, Idaho, Kansas, Indiana, the Dakotas, and Wyoming. None of those states will be carried by Hillary Clinton.
Mike in NC
@cmorenc: Eisenhower was also a good general with not so great political instincts. Consider the dreadful Dulles brothers and of course Nixon.
J R in WV
I agree with you 100%. The only difference between slavery and prison labour farms is the clothes the slaves get versus the clothes the prisoners get.
Mississippi was horrible back in 1972 when we lived there, and it is horrible now when we drive through on the way somewhere else.
NY Times: op ed today by Gregory Downs, CUNY prof: The Dangerous Myth of Appomattox
Funny how that part of his legacy survives in the modern GOP.
The fascinating thing about the original Republican Party is that not only was Lincoln “progressive” on racial issues at least by the standards of the time, but a lot of his economic arguments are recognizable by today’s standards. He was the guy arguing that “Labor is prior to and independent of capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.” A lot of his and his party’s arguments against slavery came down to extolling the virtue of farmers who worked and earned their money for a living against plantation owners who did nothing but get rich off of stolen labor. And as for foreign policy, he attacked the Mexican War as basically the Iraq or Vietnam of its day, calling into question the premises under which the war had been started.
The guy really would fit right in with modern American liberals.
still needs more omnes, or at least more steeplejack.
Mike in NC
@efgoldman: Our idiot governor McCrory and new idiot senator Tillis currently have poor poll numbers. I can see Hillary Clinton romping states like NC and Florida.
still, needs more omnes, or more steeplejack.
@Little Boots: @Little Boots: Not true.
We get it. Or do you take it as a Holy Cause to overdo everything?
What needs to be mentioned, because people today do not grok this, when writers write about how blackity-blackity-blacks took over government is that in parts of the South the were up to 80% of the population.
55% of Mississipi’s population were slaves in 1860.
Opposition to Reconstruction was very much creating creating a South African style Apartheid state, where a wealthier, better armed minority oppressed the majority of people in the state.
It really was having a truly representative government to have blacks take over southern governments and representation in Congress, not an affront to majority rule that often gets implied when Reconstruction gets discussed.
Well, if you ignore the fact that they have the name of Lincoln’s party, they are, in fact, the inheritors of the party of Calhoun and Andrew Jackson. And we’re the inheritors of the Progressive Republicans.
[‘So everyone should just change names around.’]
@Mike in NC: I know that liberals in NC thought that McCrory et al had overstepped their bounds back in 2014, but were bitterly disappointed. My understanding was the Democrats running didn’t run horrible campaigns or anything, they just didn’t get the turnout they needed. Do you really think 2016 will be a lot different?
And she used to be a Goldwater Girl.
Mike in NC
@sdhays: I knocked on doors for Senator Hagan last year, but nobody bothered to vote except for elderly white conservatives who hated Obama. Cannot predict what will happen next year. Turnout is all important.
@Mike in NC: It’s actually harder to do last minute GOTV instates like Washington that are completely vote by mail. Back on the east coast, I’d make an appointment to come pick people up and take them to the polls. Here, half the people you talk to can;t even find the ballot that was mailed to them weeks ago.
@Little Boots: @Mike in NC: The general on the presidential election years garner more interest and drive up voter participation…sorry for your loss btw, I did GOTV calls for ol’ Goldilocks. Too.
True, but then our conservatives aren’t wild about majority rule in any case unless they’re in the majority. That’s what’s behind all that “we’re a REPUBLIC not a DEMOCRACY” faux constitutional scholar bullshit. And indeed, when defending the segregated South in the 1950s and apartheid South Africa in the 1980s, conservatives were actually perfectly up front about the fact that they thought it was a terrible idea to let Those Blacks take over, because even if they were the majority, they were all savages.
east is east
If the Democrats win the White House in 2016 it will be civil war.
@east is east: Quoi?
east is east
@Omnes Omnibus: Can you imagine the day that Hillary Clinton is inaugurated? It will be a call to arms. These rubes can only take so much.
This is off-topic, and probably covered on some other thread, but: you happy about PC’s win last night? Or is it a big yawn for you? (The game itself, not Parisi’s goal, of course.)
@east is east: Call me when she is the Dem nominee.
@east is east:
As was the inauguration of that blackity-black black Kenyan fascist bocialist Mooslim usurper.
So maybe they’ll wait until 2025 to start one?
east is east
@Omnes Omnibus: It doesn’t have to be Hillary. Any democrat will do.
@east is east: Okay… Who exactly is going to violently rebel? Will it be states or counties? I need more info.
@east is east: Yes, even now the Tea Partiers are up-armoring their Hoverounds, preparing for massive street demonstrations in the nation’s capital that might involve well over 15 people….
Just everybody. Cliven Bundy will become a latter-day Daniel Shays, and the rest will be history or somethin’.
@efgoldman: to be honest, Nixon and Goldwater (especially post-1980 Goldwater) probably wouldn’t be too welcome in the current GOP. Nixon’s health care reform plan makes the ACA look like minor market reforms, plus there was the EPA, the Clean Water Act, desegregating schools and all that. Goldwater, in his later years, was less than enthusiastic about social conservatives.
ETA: hell, the real 1980s Ronald Reagan would probably not be very welcome in the present day GOP…
Look, smartass – have YOU ever gone up against one of those Hoverounds? They’re pretty formidable – comparisons have already been made to the Wasa – so be careful.
@SFAW: Daniel who?
Both not looked upon kindly by history regarding their time at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, both Grant’s and Andrew Johnson’s autobiographies nevertheless rank among the best such tomes penned by those who served as president.
(Mark Twain was insistent about putting Grant’s book in print. Though the venture provided comfortably for Grant’s soon to be widow and children, the timing was such that it was the final weight which sunk Twain’s publishing house, a situation of which he was well aware prior to sticking to his guns that he publish it.)
@east is east: Not once the red states realize how much they lose in federal fiscal aid that they would have to make up in their own taxes. Of course, being a New Yorker and one of the people whose taxes pay that aid, I wouldn’t mind getting that aid money back.
I just had the theme music from the A-Team run through my head as I pictured the requisite Montage Sequence.
Some guy in western Massachusetts.
They named the Mets’ (now-demolished) former home for him.
They don’t/won’t care. As long as the poors, darkies, gays, and other Others can get shit on, they’re OK with that.
@SFAW: Nope. From Wikipedia:
It was named in honor of William A. Shea, the man who brought National League baseball back to New York.
east is east
@PurpleGirl: They don’t care. They want payback. Those confederate flags flying over the southern capitals are not going away. Do you really think that South Carolina wants all those blacks having all those rights? They don’t.
@PurpleGirl: We are being silly.
@east is east: Answer my questions, if you want me to take you seriously.
I can’t imagine who really WOULD be welcome anymore. As we saw in 2012, they’ve become so stirred up and inflexible that no one candidate can possibly meet all their standards anymore. They didn’t like Romney, but they didn’t like any of the half dozen Not-Romneys they tried on for size either.
@Chris: They want Calhoun.
east is east
Obviously, Tom Cotton. Ya’ll think that it can’t happen here. It can.
@east is east: Okay, you are a silly person.
east is east
@Omnes Omnibus: It starts with a gunshot.
east is east
@Omnes Omnibus: If a Democrat wins in 2016, we’ll see if I’m silly. These people aren’t going to put up with it.
@Omnes Omnibus: I don’t know, Calhoun compromised in 1850… he’d probably be seen as weak
@east is east: Answer these questions please.
Tree With Water
One of the most profitable reads of my life was effected by coupling Shelby Foote’s Civil War trilogy with Steele’s West Point Atlas of the Civil War. My comprehension of the different battlefields was profoundly deepened. Above all, however, it was coming to grips with the oceans of blood that were spilt during those four ghastly years.* Well short of the halfway point I felt obliged to set it aside for a couple of weeks, so revolted had I grown by the bloodshed. I recall that point as being in late 1862, and remember feeling some dread at picking it back up again. But I did, and was glad I did. In fact, I was inspired to travel across country to tour Virginia..
[“..It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God’s assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men’s faces, but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered. That of neither has been answered fully. The Almighty has His own purposes. “Woe unto the world because of offenses; for it must needs be that offenses come, but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh.” If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through His appointed time, He now wills to remove, and that He gives to both North and South this terrible war as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to Him? Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said “the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether…”].
Not even close.
east is east
@Omnes Omnibus: I think that the South will not recognize the next Democrat as president. I think it will be a cascade of disaster from there. This is not far fetched. See Tom Cotton.
@east is east: I still think you are a silly person.
In the actively imagining minds of some (of my relatives), they have been at war for some years now. They think they are fighting skirmishes with local govt regulations, and maintaining their battle readiness at the firing range, and staying hyper-alert to any need to use their trusty sidearms. They sense that the uncivilized masses are already erupting and they are holding the fort.
@Tree With Water:
As secular as I am, one of my favorite books is the King James Bible. Its cadences when read aloud are musical. They are also the cadences of Lincoln’s speeches.
east is east
@Omnes Omnibus: This is true. But this is a scary situation. The worst is that the Republicans win. But if the Democrats win, what will they do?
@east is east: What did they do in 2008 and 2012?
ETA: Stop scaremongering.
east is east
@Omnes Omnibus: They spawned Republican state congress, they ramped up the rhetoric, they want war.
@divF: The KJV Bible is a wonderfully written book. The translators did a brilliant job – much of it sings.
Tree With Water
@divF: In the year before his death, Lincoln wrote to his friend Joshua Speed: “I am profitably engaged in reading the Bible. Take all this book upon reason as you can, and the balance on faith and you will live and die a better man”.
I can’t resist adding another Abe favorite of mine: “..Men are not flattered by being shown that there has been a difference of purpose between the almighty and them”. Lincoln to Thurlow Weed
@east is east: Bullshit. Where is their army? Some dipshits with AR-15s? Not a threat.
I have the impression that’s like 95% of the militia movement right there. People blowing the shit out of some targets and getting each other all worked up about all the badass things they’re totally gonna do when the Fed’rul Gub’mint places just one more toe out of line. Just not ever actually, y’know, doing it.
The Second American Revolution is just about to happen, and has been just about to happen for twenty years, kind of like Iran’s nuclear bomb.
When I think about a bunch of elderly Teabaggers on Hoverounds, all I can think of is an army of crappy Dalek cosplayers. Come to think of it, I’ve thought for years that Charles Krauthammer in his wheelchair looks kind of like Davros.
east is east
@Omnes Omnibus: Where is their army? It starts with a gunshot. See Watts.
Do they have the courage of their convictions?
Would the government have the courage to convict them?
Sadly, also no.
@Tree With Water:
This is why I do not a priori object to a politician who says that the Bible is one of their favorite books – as has Obama. Anyone for whom success depends on their ability to speak persuasively, even inspiringly, must admire and enjoy the KJV.
How do you figure? The Oklahoma City kooks were convicted.
Apples and oranges.
Mass murder and bombings are, it should go without saying, of a different stripe. Thought we were talking about cadres of bozos clutching their guns and, like some bizarre hokey-pokey, waving them about.
Villago Delenda Est
@east is east: Yes, and Watts died out. There is no “Republic of Watts”.
There is no governmental or military organization to these disaffected yahoos. A serious Civil War requires entire state political and military apparatuses to openly declare rebellion. This is simply not going to happen…isolated cells of dipshits with weapons can be easily crushed, and it would be massive overkill for anything larger than a reinforced mech infantry company to be involved in it.
@Tree With Water: If you weren’t a regular around here a few years ago, you may have missed the now-dormant frontpager Dennis_G. (aka dengre), who occasionally noted his annoyance with big time TV productions that propagated the glorification of the Confederates’ “Lost Cause.” This aggravation was noted in a few posts (and comments), e.g., Bobby Lee on your teevee.
My impression was that Dennis wasn’t so much concerned with Shelby Foote or Ken Burns’ PBS documentary alone, but more with the (IMO likely) fact that regular media consumers would not read or watch beyond those works, and would miss other perspectives that were less concerned with presenting the pre-War South in a sympathetic light, and more concerned with presenting a more honest view, e.g., one that included the horrors of slavery.
Sounds like you’ve been doing deep research anyway, so you probably would have appreciated discussions with Dennis.
ETA, just saw this Dennis G. link to Ta-Nehisi Coates’ 2010 piece on Robert E. Lee.
@Villago Delenda Est: I really don’t think many people have any idea what a single artillery battery can do.
I thought that was your point, that they’re just bozos waving guns around and talking shit but not actually doing anything – because they don’t have the courage of their convictions. As long as they’re just doing that, there’s not much to convict. Those few of them who, like McVeigh, do have the courage of their convictions, the government absolutely convicts.
Remind us, please, which actual prison Cliven Bundy is in.
Who did Cliven Bundy kill?
@Omnes Omnibus: Enough to be scared spitless at the thought of any secession that actually involved US military units breaking their oaths. But I see no current plausible scenario that would get us to that point.
I thought east was taking about some kind of constitutional crisis starting around cabinet nominations. I mean we’ve already seen what that does up to a point, so what happens if a full slate gets shot down in Congress? Regular order (and all those related norms) is already mostly gone, what do you think happens in 2017?
It seem like obstruction could not get much worse, but then I think of how the Republican Party reacted yesterday, and I wonder what else they’d be willing to break to “get” the next Democratic President. Loretta Lynch waiting and waiting for a confirmation vote seems significant. A harbinger of things to come.
@Chris: I believe that a number of them are taking real lives in their imaginary battles–such as some police officers. I was reading about the system of “reserve deputies” in the Tulsa County PD
(Not sure if I did that link right, but) ((Robert Bates owns an insurance company and was out with some undercover officers on a sting when he decided to tase Eric Harris but shot and killed him instead.)
You’re the one fixated on killing as some line of demarcation, not I.
That is, Bates and all the other reserve deputies are volunteers.
Oh, violence from cops, hell yeah. I thought you were only talking about militia types. Cops and their delusions, that I’m far more terrified of.
If showing your ass for a few weeks before realizing that your Glorious Revolution isn’t happening and then slinking away without so much as a Ruby Ridge blaze of glory is the scariest thing these people are getting away with, I’ll continue to sleep soundly.
The point is he is in long-term violation of the legal authority of the government and flouting it, yet still at liberty.
I’m in the process of re-reading several of my books dealing Gettysburg, and it is clear that Lee is overrated as a general. He bungled Gettysburg terribly, and with the loss of that battle the end of the Confederacy was only a matter of time. At least he could blame Antietam on the Union’s obtaining a copy of his orders. No such excuse at Gettysburg. Lee did well against bumbling Union generals, but once he faced a merely competent general like Meade, he got lost big time and was never successful again at anything other than gaining a bit of time. As time goes by I learn to dislike the South more and more. It has been nothing but a pain in the ass region from the get go. Not that Arizona is any better now, but at least it started as a progressive state.
Yeah, by grazing on public land. Which is illegal, but doesn’t exactly rise to the level of revolutionary. Closer to civil disobedience from his point of view, however stupid the cause.
The actual revolutionary activity was what all the bozos around him were talking about doing, yet never actually did, and ended up going home when the government refused to give them their show.
Yeah, the thing with bungling Gettysburg that always stuck out to me was – Lee had had a lot of success for the previous two years by fighting mostly on the defensive. You’d think he of all people would understand just how much trouble his men would be in charging Cemetary Ridge; he’d been in the Union Army’s position before.
@Chris: That’s for sure.
I think you’re two-for-two. Or zero-for-two, depending on your frame of reference.
Yeah, it did seem strange (at the time) that they would name the Stadium after some guy who made his bones 100-plus miles away.
But they probably figured naming it “The Vliet Venue” was a little premature. (Probably only New Yorkers of a certain age will get that one.)
@SFAW: You’re probably thinking of the old Boston Garden, before it was re-named again for Tony Danza.
Not Tony Dorsett? I always get that one rong.
East may be a bit over the mark…but the Cliven Bundy racnh incident one year ago shows that the wingnuts who will show up for a promised civil war are, indeed, a real threat. There are a lot of them. They want a war, and one incident could well precipitate an actual armed insurgency simliar to the troubles in Northern Ireland (complete with the religious overtones to add apocalyptic flavor).
We were one wingnut trigger pull away from a bloodbath on a scale not seen in over a hundred years in American LE…and we know from the murders in Las Vegas that at least two of the wingnuts were really unhappy they didn’t get their glorious bloodbath.
It only takes two guys with a fertilizer bomb to strike a blow for wingnut values.
@cmorenc: Shorter Jamelle Bouie – “I can’t be bothered to check Wikipedia or any of the kajillion articles and books written about Ulysses S. Grant.”
And yet, despite McVeigh’s ambitions, the Oklahoma City bombing did NOT trigger a wave of rebellion across the US. In fact, it sent the militias into hiding for quite a while. I see no evidence that there is an organized group like the IRA that can carry out a sustained terror campaign. Yes, we will have to deal with “lone wolf” assholes with small numbers of supporters, but I don’t think you know as much about the IRA, ETA, etc. as you think you do
After Chancellorsville he though his army could do anything, at least that’s the official lost cause excuse for Gettysburg. It seems like a lot of bullshit to me, and I believe Longstreet had a similar reaction when coming back from Tennessee and discovering a quarter of the army had been sacrificed for no good reason. Clowning Hooker and Burnside on the sand table got him nowhere because the man hadn’t a lick of strategic sense.
@Mnemosyne (iPhone): In its most successful phase, the IRA actually made a point of not killing people. For one, the IRA also figured out that nobody really cared if they killed Unionists. But mainly, British casualties were bad press that only inflamed public opinion, especially in the hands of the British media. On the other hand, people who really mattered took very seriously the huge economic losses from the big bombs in London taking out [empty] office buildings. The IRA also didn’t keep their bombs a secret: they told everyone about them – not just the government, but the BBC and every newspaper in London (figuring that if they only told the government, the government might not spread the word) – where they were and when they’d go off.