Both Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee were men of integrity, determination, passion and great skill.
This is where their similarities end as Lee’s empowerment ideology differed from that of Grant’s aristocratic beliefs. Bruce Catton wrote about the two men in the essay, “Grant and Lee: A Study in Contrasts”. Catton, a Pulitzer Prize winning author and Civil War Historian, provides a brief character analysis of both men in this essay. The beliefs that Grant embraced as a frontiersman was more admirable than those aristocratic beliefs of Lee, and more men and women of today should understand and follow Grant’s principles.
Social inequality was one of the fundamental differences between the two men. Lee was an aristocrat who believed in traditional chivalry. This belief had become historically antiquated because America became the land of change. In America, the aristocratic society was slowly being replaced by an industrious and forward thinking society.
(Catton 429) He also believed in the establishment and the maintenance of a clear cut social order between each class of individual.Catton wrote, “In such a land Lee stood for the feeling that it was somehow of advantage to human society to have a pronounced inequality in the social structure” (429). In contrast, Grant believed that everyone had the opportunity to succeed in society and that everyone had the same opportunities. Catton wrote, “No man was born to anything, except perhaps to a chance to show how far he could rise.
Life was a competition” (430). The societal differences between the two men gave insight into how each perceived the future of the States.Lee believed that landowners played a key role in determining the success of the country. He believed that this social class of privileged aristocrats is where leaders should be chosen.
He felt that principles, beliefs and values would give the nation its strength. Much of the south would embrace his beliefs in which Catton wrote, “In the end, it almost seemed as if the Confederacy fought for Lee; as if he himself was the Confederacy . . .
the best thing that the way of life for which the Confederacy stood could ever have to offer” (430).On the other hand, Grant believed that everyone who embraced the nation as a community would only succeed if they did so as a whole. “The Westerner who developed a farm, opened a shop, or set up in business as a trader, could hope to prosper only as his own community prospered-and his community ran from the Atlantic to the Pacific and from Canada down to Mexico” (430). Regional and national ideological differences between the men were evident as well.
Lee believed that each community is only accountable for themselves.Catton continues by writing, “He lived in a static society which could endure almost anything except change” (430). Grant believed in the well being of all people and fought for the future of the nation. Catton explains, “He could not possibly stand by unmoved in the face of an attempt to destroy the Union.
He would combat it with everything he had, because he could only see it as an effort to cut the ground out from under his feet” (431). Another difference between Grant and Lee was evident in regards to how they perceived their way of life.Lee lived in the past, embracing tradition and holding onto values that were predominantly antiquated. Grant was a visionary.
A man of the world who looked at how anyone could prosper and how the nation, as a whole, would succeed (431). Both men shared a passion for their beliefs, a desire to succeed on the battlefield and were intelligent and cunning warriors. By the time the war ended, both men worked to ensure that peace quickly followed. (431) In the essay, Catton wrote, “It was a possibility not wholly realized, in the years to come, but which did, in the end, help the two sections to become one nation again .
. after a war whose bitterness might have seemed to make such a reunion wholly impossible” (431).Though General Lee’s passion and ambition was admirable, the forward thinking that was embraced by General Grant is how society should live today. Visionaries with the passion of providing a better opportunity for us, as a nation, is a mindset that needs to be embraced by everyone.
This forward thinking had been essential in the development of this nation and needs to become a priority to the men and women of today in order for our country to further succeed.