Grant: A Biography

Grant: A Biography

Grant: A Biography

Grant: A Biography

Excerpt

... it is not right for a writer to enjoy or not enjoy her characters. A writer writes what she sees.

—Lillian Hellman

WHY GRANT? This question was asked of me many times while I was writing this book. Ulysses Grant is, after all, a curious choice for the subject of a biography if the writer is not an admirer of warfare and is not inordinately fascinated by political corruption. I came to him neither because I had discovered some extraordinary mass of evidence that would enable me to greatly revise accounts of the events of his career nor because I had manufactured an intricate theory that would enable me to claim that I had found a "new" Grant. No amount of revision is going to change the way men died at Cold Harbor, the fact that men in the Whiskey Ring stole money, and the broken hopes of black Americans in Clinton, Mississippi, in 1875.

As the reference to Clinton suggests, one subject of great interest to me that did draw me to Grant was that of race relations. Black people were, in overwhelming numbers, enthusiastic partisans of his, and the immensely popular president went into office with a Supreme Court and a Congress also of his party. The opportunity for Reconstruction would seem to have been immense. I have never been satisfied with existing explanations of why hopes for Negro advancement were so high when Grant moved into the White House, and so low eight years later. In the book considerable attention is . . .

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