THE STORY of the first forty years of Ulysses S. Grant's life is one of dismal failure. Thereafter, the story is one of sudden success, of numerous rewards, and of unexpected honors. However, the forty years of adversity had no uses. They did not give rise to the twenty succeeding years of accomplishment, nor did they serve as an adequate preparation for glory. These two periods--Grant's entire career--were so neatly severed from each other by the Civil War that they might easily have been the careers of two separate individuals. Except for a few idiosyncrasies of manner and habit which Grant the general and Grant the President shared with the ante-bellum Grant, the careers were practically without connection. Had it not been for an occasional ghost of the first, rising to haunt the second, even Grant himself might have forgotten his first four decades of futile existence.
A life thus segmented could have been possible only to a man whose personality was essentially colorless. Strong personalities, possessions of men who roughhew their own destinies, seldom conform to the rules in the copybooks. Their success or failure is absolute and final. In achieving it, they mould themselves. Only a plastic person, following purblindly conventional axioms of his day, could experience both failure and success. Only a person devoid of dramatic characteristics, of dynamic force, and of any definite direction could emerge so calmly from years of adversity and as inertly proceed to years of success. The negative elements in Grant's nature very positively conditioned his career. Ambition was foreign to his makeup. He evinced no desire to hold political office or to rise beyond his appointments. Once having tasted sweets, however, he clung to them with stubborn tenacity. Essentially, Grant's was a submerged personality--an unimaginative, albeit sensitive soul which shrank from contacts with the world, and hid its sensitiveness under an impervious and taciturn shell.
To a large extent this suppressed personality was a result of parental influences. Unfortunate in his parents, neither of whom possessed characteristics which he cared to imitate, Grant inherited no abilities toward adjustment in the world from either his verbose, aggressive, and eccen-