Why read it? Mrs. Lightfoot Lee, her husband dead for five years, decides to go to
“Since her [Mrs. Lightfoot Lee’s] husband’s death, five years before, she had lost her taste for
“For democracy, rightly understood, is the government of the people, by the people, for the benefit of Senators.” p. 17. ………. “Not one of them [Washington, Calhoun, Clay, Webster], who had aimed at high purpose, but had been thwarted, beaten and habitually insulted.”
“She had got to the bottom of the business of democratic government, and found out that it was nothing more than government of any other kind. She might have known it by her own common sense, but now that experience had proved it.” p. 168.
“I have no doubt that you can overcome me in argument. Perhaps on my side this is a matter of feeling rather than of reason, but the truth is only too evident to me that I am not fitted for politics [by becoming Ratcliffe’s wife].” p. 177. ………. Ratcliffe to Mrs. Lee: “Do you fear being dragged down to the level of ordinary politicians? So far as concerns myself, my great wish is to have your help in purifying politics.” p. 178. ………. “…or to be put in a position where I am perpetually obliged to maintain that immorality is a virtue.” p. 178.
Mrs. Lee to Mr. Ratcliffe: “For one long hour, I have degraded myself by discussing with you the question whether I should marry a man who by his own confession has betrayed the highest trusts that could be placed in him, who has taken money for his votes as a Senator, and who is now in public office by means of a successful fraud of his own, when in justice he should be in state prison. I will have no more of this. Understand, once for all, that there is an impassable gulf between your life and mine. I do not doubt that you will make yourself president, but whatever or wherever you are, never speak to me or recognize me again.”
Comment: Take your pick. Henry Adams was a cynic or a realist or both. The engine that moves the democratic American republic is politics and politics is almost, by definition, moved by corruption, the temptations of power. RayS.