Remedial Book Notes: Volume 1.4 – “a tonic like no other”
For anyone interested, this is the fourth installment of a little self-educational, comparative study of Frederick Douglass, Booker T. Washington, and Clarence Thomas in their own words perhaps inappropriately posted under the Book Notes banner. Please refer back to my Preface diary for a little more background (1). While obviously amateurish in nature, we’ll see where this one time experiment takes me/us and hopefully the effort will spark someone with talent to take up andyd’s torch.
Please indulge me in a short Douglass-only aside in this little exercise.
Being a Grant man…as in Ulysses S. Grant… I just cannot stop myself from offering this little bit of history on selecting a Republican nominee and suggesting some applicability to our current process. Here is Mr. Douglass speaking of the election of 1880 (emphasis added):
“Mr. Garfield, though a good man, was not my man for the presidency. For that place I wanted a man of sterner stuff. I was for General Grant, and for him with all the embarrassment and burden of a ‘third term’ attached to his candidacy. I held that even defeat with Grant was better than success with a temporizer.” (2)
Get that…this former slave, facing a likely changing national tide back towards less liberty, takes a stand against the safe “good man” and would rather lose with principle than win with a moderate even if this meant going in with an imperfect candidate. I cannot say absolutely that such a stand would be prudent at our current American moment but offer it here for your consideration.
He also provides some interesting commentary on the character and characteristics of that “good man” contrasted against his man (emphasis added):
“In the Senate Mr. Garfield was in his place. He was able in debate, amiable in disposition, and lovable in character, and when surrounded by the right influences would be sure to go right, but he did not, to my mind, have in his moral make-up sufficient ‘backbone’ to fit him for the chief magistracy of the nation at such a time as was then upon the country. In this place a clear head, quick decision and firm purpose are required. The conditions demanded stalwart qualities and he was not a stalwart.” (3)
It seems there are seasons in history for political spine…and in America, of course, they come every four years…but the media induced electoral ignorance of 2006 and 2008 have forced great import upon 2012 and the “sterner stuff” needed to lead on from there.
Mr. Douglass goes on to comment about his Republican party four years later nominating a losing candidate; who it seems sealed his own fate with a history of moderate positions (emphasis added):
“Up to that hour the Republican party was courageous, confident, and strong, and able to elect any candidate it might deem it wise to put in nomination for the Presidency, but from that hour it was smitten with moral decay; its courage quailed, its confidence vanished, and it has since hardly lived at all, but has been suspended, and has, comparatively, only lingered between life and death. The lesson taught by its example and its warning is that political parties, like individual men, are only strong while they are consistent and honest, and that treachery and deception are only the sand on which political fools vainly endeavor to build.” (4)
There is much deeper stuff in there but for now I can only focus on the “treachery and deception” phrasing as our current despicable, collusively-bipartisan budgetary charade…this time in the form of an Orwellian Super Committee…sets up (or is it “has been set up”) to do great violence to my liberty and my future for the third time this year.
I’ll end with leadership…winning leadership…as General Grant wins over his troops (his base) upon exiting The Wilderness:
“Saturday, May 7, 1864, dawned cloudy and overcast. A slow drizzle moved in and an uneasy quiet settled over the battlefield. … Unlike his Confederate counterpart, the average Union soldier thought his side had been whipped. … Almost to a man the troops assumed the next order they received would be to withdraw and recross the Rapidan, probably to undergo yet another reorganization under yet another commander who would eventually lead them into another battle that would end in another retreat. That was the all-too-familiar pattern of the Army of the Potomac when it faced Robert E. Lee in Virginia.”
“That afternoon when the artillery limbered up and moved out, the troops believed their suspicions had been confirmed. … To their astonishment the columns headed south. They were not marching back across the Rapidan but toward Richmond and the tiny hamlet of Spotsylvania Court House, an important road intersection twelve miles southeast of the Wilderness, in open country and directly athwart Lee’s line of communication.”
“For the troops of the Army of the Potomac, the realization they were moving south was a tonic like no other. Packs became lighter, the pace quickened, and the buzz of excitement spread down the marching columns.” (5)
“All-too-familiar pattern”…? The safe “good man”…? Dole, McCain…NEXT? No, like the good Mr. Douglass, I’m a Grant man.
Proud Redstate Member since April 2006…?
(2) The Life and times of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass. Page 384.
(3) The Life and times of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass. Page 384.
(4) The Life and times of Frederick Douglass by Frederick Douglass. Page 394.
(5) Grant by Jean Edward Smith, Pages 337-338