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A Study in Courage

August 4, 2015

General Grant was elected President in 1868 and was re-elected in 1872. General Hayes was elected President in 1876, and General Garfield was elected in 1880. In 1884 Garfield’s Secretary of State lost the presidential election to someone who had hired a substitute rather than join the Union Army.

It was all perfectly legal according to the Enrollment Act of 1863. Besides, his widowed mother had required his financial assistance. At least that’s what many authors have written. However, there is one author who wrote: “He was completely lacking in martial spirit.”

That sentence was penned by Allan Nevins, one of the foremost historians and biographers of the 20th century. His biography of the 1884 victor is perhaps the best known, and his conclusions about people and events are not usually challenged. When he wrote that his subject was “completely lacking in martial spirit,” he was stating a fact, not a conclusion. His conclusion, which seems to contradict the above statement, was given in the title of his book Grover Cleveland: A Study in Courage.

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