Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Why Trump should read Chernow's Grant: Open Letter to Trump


Dear Donald,

Your harshest critics have made the suggestion that you do not read intelligence reports, memos, books or much else.  They maintain (correctly) that it is impossible to think deeply if you have not read deeply.  May I, therefore, suggest that you read a copy of Ron Chernow's new biography Grant (www.amzn.com/159420487X)?

Ulysses S. Grant was, like yourself, a member of that Presidential Club into which only 45 member have been inducted by the American people...thus far.

I am sure that you know of Ron Chernow.  He was the celebrity biographer who wrote the book on which the broadway musical Hamilton was based.  Pence must have told you about being lectured by the cast members...?

You have vowed famously to Make America Great Again (MAGA).  America would never have become great were it not for certain great presidents.

Lincoln was, without question, a great American president.  But even the legendary Lincoln could not have become Lincoln were it not for Grant and the victories he delivered on the battlefield.

Lincoln at 6'4" was an inch taller than you.  "Little" Grant, as you might have called him, was only 5'8".  But greatness has nothing to do with mere altitude.

One of the great "What If" questions about the US Civil War is this: How many lives would have been saved if Lincoln had managed to recruit Robert E. Lee in 1861 to remain a Union general instead of serving with his home state of Virginia?  The Union enjoyed vast material advantages over the Confederacy in the Civil War (population, industry, railroads, naval power) but the Confederates had a clear advantage in terms of military leadership...until Grant.  Lincoln and the Union suffered under a series of mediocre Union commanders from McClellan to Hooker to Burnside.  Robert E. Lee was the greatest Confederate commander of the war.  But Grant was the greatest American commander of the war.

But in 1860 Grant was a nobody who would have been forgotten by history had it not been for the dawn of the Civil War at Fort Sumter in April 1861.  True, he had served with distinction in the Mexican American War.  But he had resigned from the army and was working as a store clerk in Galena Illinois prior to the war.

Like your brother Fred, Ulysses had a drinking problem.  All great men have great problems.  Grant's problem was liquor.  And also business where he proved to be hopelessly naive.  In Grant you will read about how he overcame his drinking problem and learned to reverse his wine glass at dinner parties.  And you will learn about how, after his presidency, he was swindled and nearly bankrupted by Ferdinand Ward who used Grant's good name to fashion a Ponzi scheme.

Ulysses S Grant Bust
"Little" Grant cast a Giant Shadow
Golden Gate Park, SF, CA

Grant led Union forces in the West during the opening stages of the Civil War.  He won decisive victories at Shiloh in Tennessee and at the siege of Vicksburg which effectively cut the Confederacy in two.

In 1864 Grant launched a grinding campaign against Lee in Virginia. In spite of all that Lee could do, Richmond, the capital of the Confederacy, fell.  Grant's wise and generous terms to Lee at Appomattox led to a relatively swift restoration of harmony between northern and southern states.

By 1865 Grant was a conquering hero throughout the Union.  His unparalleled military success (not TV celebrity) elevated him to two terms in the White House serving from 1869 until 1877.  President Grant, the warrior, presided over a period of peace (pace Little Big Horn and various Indian Wars) and expanding prosperity.  Grant's trusting nature led to corruption in what became known as the "Gilded Age".  He accumulated an admirable record in the struggle for the civil rights for former slaves in the teeth of the rising tide of the reaction against reconstruction and the spread of the KKK across the south.  In 1869 Grant appointed Ely Parker, of the Seneca tribe, to become the first Native American head of the Bureau of Indian Affairs.  Grant was the proper heir to Lincoln.

Grant only married once and his wife Julia was no supermodel.  He doted on Julia Grant who suffered from strabismus giving her crossed eyes.  She fretted that she was a "plain little wife" unworthy of her great husband and sought surgery to correct her condition.  But Grant objected reproving her tenderly: "Did I not see you and fall in love with you with these same eyes?  I like them just as they are, and now, remember, you are not to interfere with them.  They are mine, and let me tell you, Mrs. Grant, you had better not make any experiments, as I might not like you half so well with any other eyes."

Grant was undone more by his friends than his enemies (sound familiar?).  Grateful businessmen in the north began sending him cigars after his initial victories in the Civil War.  He was literally "killed by kindness" dying of throat cancer after consuming thousands of cigars.

Grant, like yourself, was never really an intellectual.  But he was a devoted reader who spent hours reading aloud to his wife from Dickens and others.  Yet, faced with financial ruin and concerned about the fate of his soon to be widow, he threw himself into writing a book.  His memoirs, published by Mark Twain, would become the gold standard among presidential memoirs.

Yes, Donald, Grant was a Republican too!  Check out Grant.  You might like my books too!

Respectfully yours,

Christopher Kelly

You can find signed copies of our books at 
these web sites...

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