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America and the Chivalric


America, Truth, and Honor

I have improved the syntax here and there, broken up over-long paragraphs, inserted Roman-numeral dividers, re-identified various proper names, and added supplementary notes. Informational notes, as distinct from bibliographical ones, are tagged thus .

Square brackets indicate new material. Indented passages are from other chapters of America and the Patterns of Chivalry.]

1. D.W. Griffiths, title in Orphans of the Storm (1921); Gustavus Myers, History of the Great American Fortunes, NY, Modern Library, 1936, p. 147; William Z. Foster, Pages from a Worker’s Life. NY, International Publishers, 1939, p. 211.

2. Damon Runyon, quoted in Time, February 26, 1979, p. 17.

3. Johan Huizinga, Homo Ludens: A Study of the Play-Element in Culture, Boston, Beacon Press, 1955, pp. 78–81.

4. J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye, NY, New American Library, 1953, p. 12. For a more recent view of preppies by an ex-preppie, see Nelson W. Aldrich, Jr., “Preppies: The Last Upper Class?” Harper’s, January 1979, pp 56–60. It is nicely complemented by Al Laney’s appreciative Prep Schools; Profiles of More than Fifty American Schools, Garden City, NY, Doubleday, 1961.

5. John McPartland, The Face of Evil, Gold Medal Books, 1954, p.33.

6. Lillian Hellmann, quoted in Murray Kempton, “Witnesses,” New York Review of Books, June 10, 1967, p.22.

7. Walker Percy, Lancelot, NY, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1977, p. 157; Dean Acheson, quoted in Merle Miller, Plain Speaking: An Oral Biography of Harry S. Truman, NY, Berkley, 1974, p. 239.

8. Percy, Lancelot, p. 213; William Faulkner, The Unvanquished, NY, Random House, 1934, p. 111.

9. William Shakespeare, The First Part of King Henry the Fourth, IV, i, 30–140, ed. George Lyman Kittredge, Boston, Ginn, 1940, p.88.

[It seems to be forgotten at times that in the larger context of the British history plays, Falstaff’s belief that he could continue his boozy camaraderie with Hal-turned-Henry was absurd, and that Henry’s St. Crispin’s Day speech was as magnificently fitting for that occasion as had been the great address of the Queen at Tilbury in the face of the Armada eleven years earlier.

Falstaff’s is simply the voice here of every skiving conscript looking out for Number One while the toffee-nosed officers go about their lardy-dardy business. You couldn’t build a polity on it—or an army. But a commonwealth with no room in it for a Falstaff, or a W.C. Fields, or the comic postcards described by George Orwell would be a melancholy place.]

10. Ernest Hemingway, The Green Hills of Africa, London, Jonathan Cape, 1934, p.271. The overstrain resulting from a quasi-mystical absolutism whereby one is either wholly honorable or else is utterly destitute of honor—an absolutism that destroyed Othello, for example—apparently skewed the West Point honor system for awhile. According to K. Bruce Galloway and Robert Bowie Johnson, Jr, it “tolerates no mistakes, no matter how small. In the realm of West Point ethics, one is not allowed to learn from error. An error is a mortal sin.” As they point out, “the absolute nature of the system makes it difficult for graduates to distinguish between insignificant moral problems and those of great moment” West Point; America’s Power Fraternity, fore. Anthony B. Herbert, NY, Simon and Schuster, 1973.

11. Ernest Hemingway, Death in the Afternoon, NY, Scribner’s, 1932, p.258.

12. Vivian Gornick, The Romance of American Communism, NY, Basic Books, 1977.

13. Michael Gold, ‘The Girl by the River,” New Masses, I, August 1926, p.20.

14. Dean Acheson, quoted in Miller, Plain Speaking, p. 383.

15. Thomas L. Haskell, “Power to the Experts,” New York Review of Books, October 13, 1977, pp. 31–2.

16. Michael Novak, Choosing Our King: Powerful Symbols in American Politics, NY, Macmillan, 1974, pp. 211–12.

[For a thriller series in which the idea of professionalism figures particularly strongly, see Donald Hamilton. For a lot about this intelligent Swedish-born author’s transposition of “European” ideas of honor and chivalry (he had been born a count) into “American” terms of principled and effective action, the dictates of the individual conscience, and a keen eye for the phony, see “Writer at Work: Donald Hamilton.”]

17. Haskell, “Power to the Experts,” p.28.

17a. [They persist (2008) in loving lawyers who take on big corporations on behalf of underdogs, and coaches of “loser” teams who inspire their young charges until they beat the big guys or lose with honor, and wise old orientals who instill the true karate (ka-ra-tay) spirit in the victims of bullies, and crippled young jockeys who nurse crippled racehorses to victory, and black Northern detectives hanging proud in the dens of Southern rednecks, and honest undercover cops, and decent young Union officers learning the habit of benign command, and pure-hearted young heroes going on ameliorative quests through fantasy landscapes. A number of them even honor the flesh-and-blood young men and women currently fighting and dying, or returning maimed, in the service of their country.]

18. Oliver Wendell Holmes, The Mind and Faith of Justice Holmes: His Speeches, Essays, Letters, and Judicial Opinions, sel., ed., and introd., Max Lerner, Boston, Little, Brown, 1943, p.33.

19. Harry Seidel Canby, The Age of Confidence: Life in the Nineties, NY, Farrar and Rinehart, 1934, p. 33.

19a. The conventional image of acculturation … was the Huckleberry Finn one in which authority figures force-fed the young with improving but dull information and tried to make them ‘behave’ themselves. In the transmission of chivalric ideas, in contrast, the information came from a variety of sources in a variety of ways.

Schoolteachers, YMCA officials, and so forth went on preaching gentlemanliness and purity, and the young like Booth Tarkington’s Penrod, Scott Fitzgerald’s Basil Lee, and Owen Johnson’s prep-school youngsters went on resisting them. But information also came from romances, and dime novels, and articles about cowboys, soldiers, and the like, and from sports reporting, and from sports and games themselves. And to a large extent the rules of chivalry could be assimilated not through the exhortations of the official improvers and civilizers but from the activities and utterances of heroes, whether John S. Mosby, or D’Artagnan, or Wild Bill Hickock.

Implicit in those rules was the fundamental notion that conflict and competition need not be a fight to the death and that the agonistic could entail a common language of rules and forms, a language of considerable flexibility. It was intellectually reasonable for there to be bonding and groups answering to the desires of childhood, with its fondness for games, groups, tests, pledges. It was both possible and desirable for there to be honor and equity in social and business dealings.” (Ch. 2, “Fictions and Forms,” America and the Patterns of Chivalry, p.64.)

20. Huizinga, Homo Ludens, p.63.

21 Jean de Buell, as summarized by Raymond Lincoln Kilgour, The Decline of Chivalry as Shown in the French Literature of the Late Middle Ages, Cambridge, Mass., Harvard U.P., 1937, p. 331.

22. Canby, the Age of Confidence, pp. 40, 20–21.

23. Robert Nisbet remarks that “in Burke’s day … the idea of a [political] dishonor too great to be borne was a familiar one; resignation was what was expected of any public servant whose honor had been tarnished in whatever degree, by his own acts or by those of his trusted aides.” (The Twilight of Authority, NY, Oxford U.P., 1975, p. 50). In accepting the rules of the game and the fall of the dice and assenting to such a punishment as right and proper, a man of honor could retain moral control over his destiny and remain honorable.

24. William James, “The Moral Equivalent of War,” in The Writings of William James; A Comprehensive Edition, ed. and introd. John J. McDermott, NY, Modern Library, 1968, p. 670.

25. Winston Churchill, Mr. Crewe’s Career, NY, Macmillan, 1908, pp. 477–8.

26. Theodore P. Greene, America’s Heroes: The Changing Models of Success in American Magazines, NY, Oxford UP, 1970, p.324.

27. Gore Vidal, Masters of Fact and Fiction: Essays 1973–1976, NY, Random House, 1977, p. 278.

28. Owen Johnson, Stover at Yale, NY, Stokes, 1912, pp. 23–9.

29. Edward A. Ross, quoted in Greene, America’s Heroes, pp. 255–6.

30. Greene, America’s Heroes, p 256.

31. F. Scott Fitxgerald, The Beautiful and the Damned, NY, Scribner’s 1950 [ 1922 ], p. 285.

32. Theodore Roosevelt, quoted in Charles A. Beard and Mary R. Beard, The Rise of American Civilization, 2 vols., NY, Macmillan, 1927, vol. 2, p. 426.

[Roosevelt himself was of major importance in the establishment of modes of energy that could effectively challenge the Napoleonic imperialism of the magnates.

The range of activities that he enjoyed transcended simple dichotomies and antitheses. He unabashedly enjoyed sports, and money-making (as a rancher), and evening-dress entertaining, and soldiering, and “culture.” And he gave himself to both the heroic and the pastoral.

If he notoriously adored hunting he also displayed an abiding interest in conservation, which resulted in the creation of five national parks, fifty-one wildlife refuges, and over sixteen million acres of forest reserves, and led the Beards to say that without his “spirited fight the remnants of the public domain already reserved by executive action might have been thrown to the hungry accumulators at the portals (Rise, vol.2, p.576).

And if in the Nineties he cheerfully talked of annexing Canada and informed the cadets at the Naval War College that “no triumph of peace is quote so great as the supreme triumph of war,” … in the same year, he received the Nobel Peace Prize for his peace-making activities in the Russo-Japanese war.

Moreover, for Roosevelt the rural was not simply a region of down-on–the-farm, cold-water purity in contrast to the bustle and glamour of the city, but a place where business and sport enjoyably intermingled; and big-city activities, rather than being simply grim and anxious struggles for self-advancement, continued the fun of childhood. …

Describing Henry Adams bidding farewell to Roosevelt and his family when they left the White House in 1909, Owen Wister reflected [in Roosevelt; the Story of a Friendship, 1929] that

he could easily have quoted—perhaps in his heart he was quoting—Sir Bedevere to Arthur:

‘But now the whole Round Table was dissolved
Which was an image of the mighty world.’

Roosevelt’s White House had, in fact, been a good deal more like Camelot than John F Kennedy’s would be. (America and the Patterns of Chivalry, pp. 122-12)]

33. Finley Peter Dunne, quoted in The American Heritage History, p. 289.

34. Mother Jones (Mary Harris Jones), quoted in George S, McGovern and Leonard F. Guttridge, The Great Coalfield War, Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1972, p. 101.

35. James Truslow Adams, The Epic of America, Boston, Little, Brown, 1932, p. 346.

36. William Allen White, A Certain Rich Man, NY, Macmillan, 1909, p.326.

37. Churchill, Mr. Crewe’s Career, pp. 376–7.

38. Frederick C. Howe, Confessions of a Reformer, introd. John Braeman, Chicago, Quadrangle Books, 1967 [ 1925 ], p.150.

[For a good while, of course, the magnates had basked in public approval, under the general rubric of the Napoleonic.

As the eminent British historian James Bryce observed in 1892, “the president of a great railroad needs gifts for strategical combinations scarcely inferior to those, if not of a great general, yet of a great war minister.” The magnate, whether in railroads, or steel, or oil, deployed vast numbers of men, and engaged in heroic large-scale planning like that of Grant after he took command of the Northern armies and daring innovations like Sherman’s march to the sea. … The Napoleonic hero demonstrated that, as Lord Raglan said [in The Hero (1936)], “the power of the god may be for good or for evil, it may be general or particular, but power he always has, and it is this power … which leads to his worship. All the names and attributes of a god are names and attributes of power.” The self-made tycoon of Owen Johnson’s The Sixty-First Second (1913) was “a man noticeable anywhere for the overmastering vitality of his carriage and the defiant poise of his head.” (America and the Patterns of Chivalry, pp.95–6).

Moreover, the imperial spread of the empires of the magnates, like that of Rome, was a benign one, diffusing the benefits of a rational, pacific, technological civilization across the continent and increasing the power for good of a nation fulfilling its manifest destiny. The appalling casualty rates in the workforce, not being intended, were nobody’s fault and could not be considered violent. Labor violences were the result of impious attempts by workers to interfere with the natural workings of economic progress.

But systemic subverttings had been going on. If strength of character was demonstrated by business success, and weakness of character by business failure, then more and more aspiring businessmen, wiped out or absorbed by the empires of Rockefeller, Carnegie, and the rest, were stigmatized as personal failures.

And even success had its problems.

Part of the American promise had been that Americans could obtain anything that Europeans had, if they wanted it. But this raised the question of where in fact a successful American businessman had arrived when he did arrive. In England the rich man could make a qualitative leap and enter the aristocracy; in America, as H.G. Wells noted in Tono-Bungay (1909), “all he gets is money.”… And the more the older kind of businessman bought or allowed his wife to buy the patterns of housing, clothing, culture, and the like that characterized the European aristocracy, the more he was implicitly acknowledging the desirability and superiority of that despised way of life.

The more, too, he was in danger of coming up against all those attributes of aristocratic style and class that he did not possess and that could make him feel like an imposter, such as the fact that whereas the aristocrat was “in” and could never be put out, the businessman was in only by virtue of his money, and could be put out when he lost it. (America and the patterns of Chivalry, p. 101).]

39. John Kenneth Galbraith, “The Refined and the Crude,” New York Review of Books, February 3 1977, p.6.

40. White, A Certain Rich Man, pp. 326–7.

41. Greene, America’s Heroes, pp. 276, 262.

42. Finley Peter Dunne, Mr. Dooley Remembers: The Informal Memoirs of Finley Peter Dunne, Boston, Little, Brown, 1963, p. 181.

43. Samuel M. Jones, The New Right: A Plea for Fair Play through a More Just Social Order, introd. N.O. Nelson, NY, Eastern Book Concern, 1899, p.60.

44. Theodore Roosevelt, quoted in Beard, 2: 423.

45. Ida M. Tarbell, The History of the Standard Oil Company, 2 vols., NY, Macmillan 1925 [ 1904 ], 2: 292.

[Wikipedia reports (2007) that Tarbell’s book “was listed as number five among the top 100 works of twentieth-century American journalism by the New York Times in 1999.]

46. Chambers, “Americans at Play,” p. 13.

47. Samuel E. Moffett, “Why Mr. Rockefeller is Disliked,” Collier’s, 35, May 6, 1905, p.15.

48. Howe, Confessions of a Reformer, p.170.

49. Richard M. Weaver, The Southern Tradition at Bay: A History of Postbellum Thought, ed. George Core and M.E. Bradford, pref. Donald Davidson, New Rochelle, Arlington House, 1968, pp. 67–8.

50. Cornelia Philips Spencer, The Last Ninety Days of the War in North Carolina, NY, Watchman, 1866, p 70.

51. Owen Johnson, The Sixty-First Second, NY, Stokes, 1913, p. 270.

52. Charles Sumner, Recent Speeches and Addresses, Boston, Higgins and Bradley, 1856, p.419.

53. Thomas W. Lawson, in Arthur Weinberg and Lila Weinberg, eds., The Muckrakers: The Era in Journalism that Moved America to Reform—the Most Significant Magazine Articles of 1902–1912, NY, Simon and Schuster, 1961; David Graham Phillips, in Weinberg and Weinberg, p.75.

54. Max Eastman in William L. O’Neill, ed., Echoes of Revolt: The Masses 1912–1917, introd. Irving Howe, afterword Max Eastman, Chicago, Quadrangle, p.155.

55. Oscar Handlin, The Americans: A New history of the People of the United States, Boston, Little, Brown, 1963, pp. 277.

56. Ida M. Tarbell,Commercial Machiavellianism,” McClure’s, 26, March 1906, p. 459.

57. Sumner, Recent Speeches, p.448.

58. In The Knight of the Grip: Being a Series of Dissertations on His Conditions, Character and Conduct as They Appear to an Ordinary Chap Who Has Studied Him (NY, David Williams, [1900 ], Thomas Joseph Carey celebrated “the modern knight errant,” the traveling salesman, with such comments as, “The essence of gentlemanliness lies not in the manner, but in the activating spirit behind it, and I have found in these exponents of everyday manliness a considerateness and a fine courtesy that are indices of the innate breeding that marks the highest type of American manhood.” (p.163).

The articles composing the book had appeared in the principal journal of the iron and steel industry, the Iron Age. In one of the issues containing them, Andrew Carnegie was reproved in an editorial for having been “more than any man the type of the untiring, incalculable exponent of unrestrained competition which the younger generation of business men and manufacturers may admire but do not care to imitate.” (“Andrew Carnegie’s Retirement,” May 11, 1899, p.16).

59. Sumner, “Recent Speeches,” pp. 419–20.

60. “Going to Work; Dedicated to the Employers of Children,” in Charles Dana Gibson, The Gibson Girl and Her America: The Best Drawings of Charles Dana Gibson, sel. Edmund Vincent Gillon, Jr., introd. Henry C. Pity, NY, Dover, 1969, p. 126.

61. Beard and Beard, The Rise of American Civilization, vol. 2, p. 386.

62. Henry Demarest Lloyd, Wealth Against Commonwealth, NY, Harper, 1894, pp. 427, 474.

63. Moffett, “Why Mr. Rockefeller is Disliked,” p. 15.

64. Collier’s, 30, March 14, 1903, p.4.

65. Charles Francis Adams, quoted in Beard and Beard, The Rise of American Civilization, vol. 2, p. 203.

66. White, A Certain Rich Man, p.285

67. Inez Haynes, Gilmore, in O’Neill, Echoes of Revolt, p. 163.

68. H.G. Wells, The Future in America: A Search After Realities, London, Chapman and Hall, 1906, quoted in William V. Shannon, The Ametrican Irish, rev., ed., NY, Macmillan, 1960, p. 163. In 1906, Tarbell wrote, “It is not only cruelty, which is necessary in modern businesses. It is lying. Follow the testimony of the great insurance investigators of the past fall and compare it with the investigations of other years, and perjury sticks out at every corner, perjury so obvious in many cases that it is laughable. Follow the testimony of the leader of the great oil trust—that of many railroad men. When it is necessary they lie.” (“Commercial Machiavellianism,” p. 458.)

69. Jacques de Mailles, The Right Joyous and Pleasant History of the Feats,Gests, and Prowesses of the Chevalier Bayard, the Good Knight without Fear and Without Reproach, 2 vols., London, John Murray, 1825 [1525], vol. 2, pp. 234–5.

70. Curtis Brown Watson, Shakespeare and the Renaissance Concept of Honor, Princeton, Princeton U.P., 1966, p.97

71. Francis J. Grund, Aristocracy in America: From the Sketch-Book of a German Nobleman, introd. George E. Pobst, Gloucester, Mass., Peter Smith, 1968 [1839 ].

72. Friedrich Nietzsche, Beyond Good and Evil, trans. and introd. Marianne Cowan, Chicago, Regnery, 1955, p. 203.

73. Dunne, Mr. Dooley Remembers, p. 198; Theodore Roosevelt, in Weinberg and Weinberg, The Muckrakers, p.60.

74. Owen Johnson, The Varmint: A Lawrenceville Story, Boston, Little, Brown, 1922 [1910], p.252.

75. Watson, Shakespeare and the Renaissance Concept of Honor, p. 135.

76. John S. Mosby, quoted in Edmund Wilson, Patriotic Gore; Studies in the Literature of the American Civil War, NY, Oxford U.P.,1962, p.311. The subject of chivalric “realism” is interestingly explored by three of the best American thriller writers—Dashiell Hammett, Ross Thomas, and above all, Donald Hamilton, whose intelligent and impressive oeuvre includes spy ficion, crime fiction, and Westerns, and whose interest in the subject, and in American adaptations of chivalric values in general, presumably partly stems from his first-hand acquaintance with aristocratic attitudes as the son of a former Swedish baron. See also the estimable thrillers of British writers like Geoffrey Household and Simon Harvester.

76a. The Chevalier Bayard emerges from the pages of his companion and biographer as a thoroughly solid, admirable, and credible person. On the one hand, he was an extremely skillful professional soldier, whom his biographer [Jacques de Mailles] called “one of the subtlest, most vigilant warriors that you could meet with”—a thorough professional performing brilliantly in the confused warfare in Italy at the beginning of the sixteenth century, who set efficient ambushes, retreated prudently when out matched, and on one occasion neatly worked the laws of knightly surrender to his own advantage. On the other, he was manifestly a man of great poise and charm, as displayed, for instance, in his good-humored handling of a drunken, duel-seeking confrere. Two of the accounts of his gracious dealings with women—chivalrous in the best sense—are convincing in their essentials, even if obviously fictive in some of their details. (America and the Patterns of Chivalry, p.57.)

77. Gilbert Patten, [Burt L. Standish] Frank Merriwell at Yale (Philadelphia, McKay, 1903 [1897], p. 198.

[Unlike Owen Johnson, Patten was not a preppie who had gone on to Yale himself. But at times the yearnings and idealizings of the excluded can testify particularly strongly to the power of stereotypes.]

78. Mark Twain, The Adventures of Huckleberry /Finn (Tom Sawyer’s Comrade), London, Zodiac Press, 1963 [1884], p. 181.

79. A melancholy irony about the flagrant Army lying during the Vietnam War was how alien to the martial ethos it really was. This dishonorable unprofessionalism in fact formed part of a larger pattern, namely the increasing bureaucratization of the military and the attempt to turn quality back into quantity. The military, especially in the Pentagon, had become more and more permeated by the attitudes of business corporations—the desire for organizational growth, for financial increase, for ever more sophisticated and prestigious equipment. The disingenuousness and flattery that made it easier to rise inside a bureaucratized system were reinforced by the civilian demand for a cost-free win that would not necessitate “sacrificing” American lives and that could be achieved through smashing the eemy by technological might.

These attitudes led to the pressure on the fighting Army for quantification—for body counts, for progress charts, for reassuring statistics about the amount of ammunition discharged at the enemy—and by the related necessity to cover up failures and crimes in the interests of good public-relations. Hence an army captain could recall that “we did not have a single major fire-fight that month, and we had a legitimate body-count of three, but I was told to report 50, and I did.” Hence another one could recall that “General --------- amassed an unsurpassed record of body count and it was based on lies. And everybody in the unit knew it” (quoted in Galloway and Johnson, West Point, pp.100–1).

The West Point feeling that what counted primarily was loyalty to one’s fellow offices and the “team” was strengthened by the more hysterical polemics pf the antiwar movement, in which what was conveyed was not that this particular war was unnecessary, mismanaged, and in its larger aspects immoral, but that war itself was immoral and that it was unnecessary for Americans to be involved in wars at all. It was natural to close ranks against civilians in the face of the implications that being a soldier at all was discreditable.

80. Newton D. Baker, quoted in Galloway and Johnson, West Point, p. 101.

81. Harry S. Truman, quoted in Miller, Plain Speaking, p.373.

82. White, A Certain Rich Man, p. 379.

83. E. Nesbit, The Phoenix and the Carpet, Harmondsworth, Middlesex, Penguin, 1959 [1904], p.13.

[83a In contrast to the style of the Robber Barons,

The Mississippi politician Sargent Prentice, as described by Joseph G. Baldwin in 1842 in The Flush Times of Alabama and Mississippi, “bet thousands on the turn of a card and witnessed the success or failure of the wager with the nonchalance of a Mexican monte-player, or, as was most usual, with the light humor of a Spanish muleteer,” and, “starting to fight a duel, … laid down his hand at poker, to resume it with a smile when he returned, and went to the field laughing with his friends, as to a picnic.” (America and the Patterns of Chivalry, p.17)

A surprising number of fictional-sounding texts in this zone turn out on closer inspection to be most likely true. But the most important thing to keep in mind is that, true, or false, or a mixture of both, generations of subsequent readers believed them to be true.]

84. W. Gilmour Simms, The Life of the Chevalier Bayard: The Good Knighs, Sans peur et sans reproche, NY, Harper, 1847, p. 147.

85. Dean Acheson, quoted in Miller, Plain Speaking, p.386.

86. Huzinga, Homo Ludens, p.11.

87. Johnson, The Varmint, p.386.

88. Patten, Frank Merriwell at Yale, p. 194.

89. Ralph Waldo Emerson, quoted in Edwin Harrison Cady, The Gentleman in America: A Literary Study in American Culture, NY, Syracuse U.P., 1949, p. 163.

90. Grund, Aristocracy in America, p. 291.

91. Ruth Kelso, The Doctrine of the English Gentleman in the Sixteenth Century, Gloucester, Mass., Peter Smith, 1964 [1929], p.104.

92. Hutchins Hapgood, A Victorian in the Modern World, introd. Robert Allen Shotheim, Seatle., U. of Washington P., 1972 [1939].

93. J.F.C. Fuller, Grant and Lee: A Study in Personality and Generalship, London, Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1933, p. 244.

94. Napoleon, quoted in Fuller, Grant and Lee, p.321.

95. Mailles, The Right Joyous and Pleasant History, vol. 2, pp 202, 224.

96. Colonel Grenfell, quoted in Fuller, Grant and Lee, p.121.

97. William Tecumseh Sherman, Home Letters of General Sherman, ed. M.A. DeWolfe Howe, NY, Scribner, 1909, p. 321.

98. Joyce Cary, A House of Children, London, Michael Joseph, 1951, p.170.

99. Thomas Jefferson, The Life and Selected Leters of Thomas Jefferson, ed. nd introd. Adrienne Koch and William Peden, NY, Modern Library, 1944, p. 37.

100. John William De Forest, Miss Ravenel’s Conc\version from Secession to Loyalty, ed. and introd. Gordon S. Haight, NY, Rinehart, 1955 [1867], p.149.

101. Wilson, Patriotic Gore, p. 312; John S. Mosby, Mosby’s War Reminiscences and Stuart’s Cavalry Campaigns, NY, Dodd, Mead, 1887, pp.80–1.

102. Plainclothes American honorableness was also displayed by Harry Truman. In conventional romantic terms, he was, of course, all “wrong.” He looked wrong, he dressed wrong, his origins were wrong, he had been, like Grant, whom he admired, an unsuccessful small businessman, he had been associated with a political machine, he had an unpicturesque wife whom he deferred to as The Boss.

But he was as ready as Grant (Grant the soldier) to act firmly regardless of public opinion, and employed limited force successfully in Berlin and Korea, and was unafraid of the large adversary, whether Stalin, Douglas MacArthur, the Republican Party in the quintessential underdog campaign, or American big business. Of the latter, he remarked in Congress that “no one ever considers the Carnegie libraries steeped in the blood of the Homestead steel workers, but they are. We do not remember that the Rockefeller Foundation is founded on the dead miners of the Colorado Fuel Company and a dozen other performances” (quoted in Miller, Plain Speaking, p. 152).

He was loyal to associates, whether the members of Battery D or the Virginian gentleman George Marshall and the New England gentleman Dean Acheson, both of whom reciprocated his esteem and the latter of whom dedicated his political memoirs to him as “the Captain with the mighty heart.” He was unconcerned with acquiring personal wealth, did not lust after personal power, and used the trappings of the presidency with great restraint. He felt strongly for the underdog, and had an old-fashioned reference for women.

When he affirmed and acted on the principle that “The buck stops here,” the integrity that enabled him to do so and to be one of the great American presidents was a complex one that derived in part from his unusually extensive reading, especially in history. According to Acheson, Lee was “his hero” (Dean Acheson, Present at the Creation: My Thirty Years in the State Department, NY, Norton, 1969, p.730.)

103. Herbert Croly, The Promise of American Life, ed. and introd. Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., Cambridge, Mass., Belknap Press of Harvard U.P, 1965 [1909], p. 89.

104. It is presumably relevant here that Lincoln’s parents were Virginians.

105. In an excellent article, Robert Conquest says of Lee: “He challenges flatly and unanswerably certain personal and public standards which have come to be accepted (or talked about as if they were accepted) in the last few years. He was a ‘gentleman’ in every sense, including those now most reprobated—and yet no amateur but a supreme professional expert. He was heroically combative, fighting past the point of desperation with brilliant aggressiveness—and yet he was never bitter and always considerate. Above all, he was a man of power and command totally without personal ambition—democracy’s answer to the conventional great man.” (“Robert E. Lee: A Morality for Moderns?” Encounter 44, June 1975, p. 49.)

106. George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman: A Comedy and a Philosophy, Harmondsworth, Middlesex, Penguin, 1975, p.49.


© John Fraser


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