Monday, May 21, 2012
Henry Adams, the Historian Who Hates President Grant
I found out why!
Last night my digging for the last couple of months to learn why President Grant turned Henry Adams so vitriolic, when all the other evidence is that Grant's administrations' problems should have been well balanced at least by the things he did right, finally yielded pay dirt.
It's very simple. It was Charles Sumner, the fellow caned in the House back before the War by a rabid pro-slavery member.
Grant and Sumner did not hit it off. There was a chemical antipathy there, and from the beginning Sumner, who understood Grant not at all, sneered at him as an uncouth, tobacco-smelling, whiskey drinking, card playing yahoo. Nor did he believe Grant to be a real Republican. Grant rather saw Sumner as an effete New England snob who valued his New England aristocratic breeding.
The two broke initially over the U.S. involvement with the Dominican Republic within the first 6 months of Grant's 1st administration. While Grant, as he was wont to do as a General kept negotiations close to his chest, preferring to present fait accompli, when he present the annexation treaty to Sumner, Sumner basically lied to Grant about putting the initiative for annexation up to the Foreign Relations committee. As well, Sumner had blocked several other bills of Grant's already. It went on from there, and Henry Adams believed Grant destroyed Sumner's political career. Adams had known Sumner all his life, and admired and loved him since boyhood. He may no longer have admired Sumner quite as much now, but the man was dear to him all the same. As well, one thinks that Adams himselfquite valued the New England aristocracy, of which he was such a notable a scion, despite what Adams says in his Education of Henry Adams about attempting to distance himself from the burden of its rights, privileges and obligations.
And then there was the Alabama issue with England, it one of the iron clads the former CSA was built in Liverpool. This was something his father as head of the U.S. mission at St. James during the War dealt with extensively. And according to Adams himself he felt his father had performed brilliantly during the months this crisis hung on. And how -- here comes Grant, and comes up with a whole other solution, and his father, grandson and son of two POTUSes, nowhere mentioned. nowhere mentioned.
Ay-up -- the political is personal!