Tuesday, March 19, 2019
Monday, March 18, 2019
Sunday, March 17, 2019
Saturday, March 16, 2019
Let me submit, as my parting word, a warning to the skeptic: the democratic process is in peril of self-negation. The public's mood swings are driven by failures of government, not hope for change. Each failure bleeds legitimacy from the system, erodes faith in the machinery of democracy, and paves the way for the opposite extreme.
. . . A rebellious public, sectarian in temper and utopian in expectations, collides everywhere with institutions that rule by default and blunder, it seems, by habit. Industrial hierarchies fer no longer able to govern successfully in a world swept to the horizon by a tsunami of information. An egalitarian public is unwilling to assume responsibility under any terms. The muddled half-steps and compromises necessary to democracy may become untenable under the pressure applied by these irreconcilable forces.
. . . I wrote this book, in part, to invite the discussion. I did so in the manner of a man who notices a fire blazing in a corner of a locked room: I don't want to start a panic, only some sane talk among the occupants about how best to put the thing out.
-Martin Gurri, The Revolt of the Public
By expanding war objectives to include abolition of slavery, the proclamation upped the stakes and guaranteed an uncompromising, winner-take-all struggle. "The Union party in the South is virtually destroyed," Halleck warned Grant. "There can be no peace but that which is forced by the sword." More than ever the war became a clash between two incompatible ways of life, an effort to remake the nation as well as save it. . . .
It was an amazing development: the lowly figure who had clerked in a Galena leather goods store now bore the weight of the republic on his shoulders. With voluntary enlistments dwindling and public discontent rising, the politically savvy Grant understood the urgent need for a smashing victory. "There is nothing left to be done but to go forward to a decisive victory," he later wrote. This was in my mind from the moment I took command in person at Young's Point." . . .
By nature and background, Abraham Lincoln was an eminently sober figure, having published as an adolescent his maiden newspaper article on the evils of alcohol. Whatever his worries about Grant's drinking, he could not afford to sacrifice this uniquely successful general. He showed wisdom and fortitude in facing down naysayers who brayed for Grant's dismissal, perhaps sensing their malice. "I think Grant has hardly a friend left, except myself," he said. Nevertheless, "what I want . . . is generals who will fight battles and win victories. Grant has done this, and I propose to stand by him." . . .
While both Grant and Sherman proved overly optimistic about the potential contrition of southern citizens, the North experienced a vicious backlash against emancipation during New York City draft riots in mid-July. In March, Congress had enacted legislation that allowed men to escape the draft by hiring substitutes or paying $300 bounties to the government. Those eligible for the draft in New York's poor Irish Democratic neighborhoods vented their class anger against Republicans rich enough to evade the war and racial prejudice against free blacks who threatened them with economic competition. The ugliest aspect of the riots, which took more than one hundred lives over four days, involved the outright murder of blacks on New York streets and the horrendous burning of the Colored Orphan Asylum. Lincoln refused to rescind the draft and brought troops fresh from victory at Gettysburg to restore order. . . .
Grant's clear sense of purpose enabled him to enlist the energies of a giant army to a common task. "For good sense, strong judgment and nerve, he cannot be surpassed," Wilson wrote. "He is a tower of strength."
-Ron Chernow, Grant
Friday, March 15, 2019
"Lines prompting reading, dreaming minds not to see every thing by itself and separate, but to see the seams often unseen in the dark expanses across space and time. . . . A power not to wield, but to hold. To practice holding.”
-Ellie Rogers, via David Kanigan's wondrous blog