Monday, December 17, 2012


"Part of Grant's authority derived from his silence.  In a world in which politicians spoke for hours (the speech preceding Lincoln's address at Gettysburg ran longer than two hours, and most of the audience thought it was too short), Grant's reluctance to speak at all seemed like proof of his wisdom.  People listened carefully to what he did have to say - like the utterances of the Sphinx - puzzled over his meaning, and interpreted his silences as a sign of greatness.  In an age when speech making was a popular entertainment (the term 'stemwinder' comes from a speech so long that listeners had to rewind their watches during its course), and when folksy, comic, and sometimes bawdy stories were political assets (Lincoln was the past master of these), Grant had neither a gift nor a taste for either one.  Way back when he had been chosen to command a regiment of volunteers by the governor of Illinois, he had listened to other people's full-blown rhetoric as they addressed the troops; then when it was his turn, stood before his new men, who were no doubt expecting more rhetoric, and said, 'Go to your quarters, men.' "
-Michael Korda, Ulysses S. Grant: The Unlikely Hero

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