Profiles in Persuasion: U.S. Grant

In the wake of the Civil War, the United States had never been more divided. The sitting president, Abraham Lincoln, was assassinated by a disgruntled actor, John Wilkes Booth, and Andrew Johnson, who succeeded Lincoln, was deeply unpopular. The Republicans won the presidency and the House of Representatives under Lincoln, but Johnson was a Democrat. He did little to mend the divide, and after bristling against the House of Representatives one too many times, faced impeachment. The Senate fell shy of removing him from office by only one vote.

“There never was a time when, in my opinion, some way could not be found to prevent the drawing of the sword.” – Ulysses S. Grant

Enter into the fray Ulysses S. Grant. Grant had served the Union as one of its top generals throughout the Civil War and was ultimately promoted to Commanding General of the United States Army. He went toe to toe with Robert E. Lee, playing a pivotal role in defeating the Confederacy. It came as little surprise that he was a national figure by the end of Andrew Johnson’s tenure. And though he seemed to have little appetite for the presidency, he accepted the nomination of the Republican Party.

“In every battle there comes a time when both sides consider themselves beaten, then he who continues the attack wins.” – Ulysses S. Grant

Johnson had fought with the Republicans in Congress over the implementation of Reconstruction; a Tennessean, he was more sympathetic to the concerns of his Southern neighbors. Grant won the presidency and implemented reconstruction policies that had somewhat languished under Johnson.

It took a man of a certain stature to shepherd the U.S. out of its darkest period, and Grant fit the bill. The trait we will examine here is trust. We touched upon it in the chapter on Lyndon Johnson. Let’s now take a closer examination.

For Grant, it was essential that the people of the United States trust him. He was the face of the nation and was tasked with bringing the defeated Confederate states squarely back into the fold. Thousands of new citizens were looking for someone they could trust. Newly enfranchised blacks were voting for the first time in many states, and they looked to Grant to oversee the transition to a more just nation. Although his overall tenure is considered mediocre by most historians, he was well positioned to unify the country, insofar as it was possible at the time.

Here’s the thing: Trust alone won’t allow you to persuade, but a lack of trust makes persuasion impossible. Without the trust of your team, you have nothing. No one will tell you that you’ve lost it – they’ll just gradually back away. 



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