Monday, March 25, 2019

Always just enough virtue.....................

     At night, Lincoln reveled in the camaraderie of the campfire and luxuriated in this respite from the pressures of the executive mansion.  There were no office seekers to pursue him, no legislators to lobby him, no reporters to hound him.  Despite his proximity to the battlefield, he was surprisingly relaxed, and Porter observed that as Lincoln "sat in a camp-chair with his long legs doubled up in a grotesque attitudes, the smoke of the fire curling around him, he looked the picture of comfort and good-nature."  With inexhaustible good humor, he traded quips and stories and reminisced about the war.  When someone asked if he had ever doubted the North's final victory, he shot back, "Never for a moment."  He quoted Seward, saying "that there was always just enough virtue in this republic to save it; sometimes none to spare, but still enough to meet the emergency, and he agreed with Mr. Seward in this view."
     Grant derived special pleasure from Lincoln's expansive fireside mood.  As he later said, the president "talked, and talked, and talked, and the old man seemed to enjoy it and said: 'How grateful I feel to be with the boys and see what is being done at Richmond' . . . He would sit for hours tilted back in his chair, with his had shading his eyes, watching the movement of the men with the greatest interest."  By this point, the Lincoln-Grant relationship had ripened into genuine friendship.  Both men had been caricatured as simpletons from the western prairies and greeted with contemptuous sneers by detractors.  A certain self-deprecating modesty deceived people into underrating both of them, causing them to miss an underlying shrewdness.

-Ron Chernow,   Grant

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