Comparison and Contrast Essay
No matter how different two persons are, it is always possible for them to meet somewhere in the middle where a positive outcome usually spring out. This is what Ulysses Grant and Robert Lee proved when they are working out the terms of surrender of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, which has been noted as a notable chapter in the American History. As said by Bruce Catton,
“They were two strong men, these oddly different generals and they represented the strengths of two conflicting currents that, through them, had come into final collision. (Catton 504)”
Regardless of their background differences, the two generals under anything else were marvelous fighters, for their fighting qualities are both alike. According to Catton, “Each man had, to begin with, the great virtue of tenacity and fidelity… In each man there was an indomitable quality, the born fighter’s refusal to give up as long as he can still remain on his feet and lift his two fists” (Catton 506).
Both of them are also known for being determined and for moving faster than their enemies. In spite of this apparent power, the two are known for drawing their strength from the people they led. Aside from their cunning and resourcefulness, the greatest of all the similarities of the two would perhaps be their ability “to turn quickly from war to peace once the fighting was over” (506). Out of the way these two men were always open for a peace of reconciliation with their former enemies. However, in spite of the positive similarities of the two, one shouldn’t disregard the fact that they are molded from a totally distinct milieu.
Probably the most significant difference of the two would be the social structure they came from. Grant being a son of a Tanner on the Western Frontier, “he was everything that Lee was not.” (505). He grew up in an environment where he experienced the hardships which led to the development of his cunning similar to those of individuals who were raced in the mountains. He was among the men who valued freedom and who are informed in the underpinnings of it, which is the reason why they stood up for democracy and against any ordering of human society.
Grant fought with an equal tenacity for the broader concept of society. He fought so because everything he lived for was tied to growth, expansion and a constantly widening horizon. (Catton 506)
He welcomes the possibility of privileges that are at the grasp of every individual, but they would have to be won by the person himself. Life for him is basically a struggle between competing animals, known as humans. On the contrary, Lee was born in Tidewater, Virginia where his background was bound to the age of chivalry that is transplanted in the New World. His way of life was basically slanted towards aristocracy, since his lifestyle came down from the age of knighthood and English Country Squire. Unlike Grant, Lee lived a life of convenience for he inherited masses of land and properties. In these lands of his, Lee has been accustomed in employing slaves to till his agricultural lands.
Another point of difference of the two would be their time orientation, Grant is the modern man who is open for social structure changes while Lee was a man of the past who largely anchors his decisions from the Age of Chivalry.
Grant was a modern man emerging beyond him, ready to come on the stage, was the great age of machinery, of crowded cities and restless burgeoning vitality. While, Lee on the other aspect might have ridden down from the old age of chivalry, lance in hand, silken banner fluttering over his head. (Catton 506)
The last difference between the two leaders would be their geographical orientation, Grant spent his life in the cities, from Atlantic to the Pacific to Canada down to Mexico, where he prospered by opening a shop, developing a farm and setting up a traders’ business. He believes that his horizons expand as his society does. In simple terms he believes in modern values of the changing world. On the other hand, Lee live his life in the rural area of Europe where he was known as a landed noble bound to the old values of aristocracy,
These two great Americans who have done so much for the country were just as different as one may conceive but they are at the same time, so alike in so many ways. All in all, they were able to prove that difference is not a concrete and insurmountable barrier after all, if the intent to become good leaders and to be productive would be at the forefront.
Catton, Bruce. Grant and Lee: A Study in Contrasts.