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An American In Paris
Faced with war, famine, and bloody revolution, a political wheel horse turned into a first-class ambassador.
February 1967 | Volume 18, Issue 2
As the nominating convention drew near, however, it became clear that former President Grant wanted a third term, and Washburne would not announce his own candidacy in opposition to his old friend. This tied the hands of his supporters. The nomination went—on the thirty-sixth ballot—to James A. Garfield. Afterward, Washburne’s backers claimed that Grant had cost Washburne the nomination. Grant, on the other hand, held that he might have made it if Washburne’s support for him had not been half-hearted; after the convention Grant’s son was reported to have called Washburne a liar and a fraud.
The politician who had created a general out of a clerk and the general who had created a diplomat out of a politician were never to speak to each other again. Grant retired to New York to write his memoirs; Washburne retired to Chicago to write his. The former President had five years to live; the former minister, a little more than seven. Both men wrote of themselves exclusively as they wished to be remembered: Grant as the general, Washburne as the diplomat. Their public careers had been intimately entwined, yet in their books the few scant references by Grant to Washburne and by Washburne to Grant acknowledge neither appreciation nor affection. Grant, of course, loomed far larger in his country’s annals and has never been forgotten; Washburne, by contrast, has almost fallen into oblivion.