Linton- Life in the Collections
William James Linton aka Abel Reid and A.N. Broome:
38) The American Odyssey. Adventures of Ulysses. exposed, in modest Hudibrastic Measure.
Washington in our centennial year 1876
Non-pictorial leaflet, 24 pages.
The civil rights politics of President Ulysses Grant, which were in favour of Afro-Americans and Native Indians, should have suited Linton’s taste. But the two terms of his presidency were overshadowed by a series of corruption scandals, which had revealed the political constitution of the so-called Gilded Age as an unscrupulous oligarchic system. The old Chartist was also increasingly disappointed by Grant’s imperialistic foreign policies. This Hudibrastic satire on Grant’s presidency, though dry, cryptic and completely unfunny, is full of numerous allusions to various affairs, in which Linton was mentally or physically involved. Grant’s first name, Ulysses, had enticed him to use Homer’s epos as a formula.
The first chapter refers to the Cyclops episode and, according to the wording of the preface, is meant to symbolize “the partial blindness of the law.” It is peppered with allusions to the Cuban and Santo Domingo affairs: “General Ben Butler and the great Massachusetts Senator, Charles Sumner, I saw and spoke with at sundry times. Cespedes' brave attempt for the freedom of Cuba, for its deliverance from Spain and for the emancipation of the slaves, had a promise of success. (note: Carlos Manuel de Céspedes, a Cuban planter, who had freed his slaves, made the declaration of Cuban independence in 1868 which started a ten-years guerilla war) And perhaps had not failed had Grant conceded belligerent rights, as he had promised to Rawlings. (note: General Rawlings, the Secretary for War, had introduced Linton to President Grant in 1867, in order to persuade him to support the Italian republicans.) Rawlings dead, the promise was not kept. This was but a little while after my arrival in America. I was led to interest myself in the Cuban struggle by Cluseret and another republican friend, Dr. Basora, a physician practising in New York. (...) He was active in the Cuban cause. Strongly sympathising, I gave what help I could by writing for it; and when they wanted an American General, I was asked to see General Butler and get him to name a man good for the purpose. Butler gave me an introduction to one whom he recommended as a brave and daring and capable man, who had served under him. I called upon the man in Boston, and found him to be, instead of the expected fierce, grim warrior, a quiet-looking, smooth-faced, gentlemanly man, who regretted, and seemed sincerely to regret, that he had settled down since the war as a man of peace, begun business as a lawyer, and could not be disturbed again.” (Memories) “Butler’s nominee was the gallant former Brigadier-General Sumner Curruth. The Cubans needed better generalship and Carruth’s Civil War record suggests that he would have supplied it. His acceptance of the post might have tipped the balance of the war in Cuba. (...) Linton’s public role in the Cuban affair was a tireless campaign to swing the Anti-Slavery Society into backing the revolt. (...) The Americans’ attitude to the abolition of slavery was parochial, their greed did prevent them from playing a liberating role in the Caribbean, but Linton’s bombastic self-righteousness made him a poor persuader. (...) His latent hostility to America that informed his political pronouncements surfaced in his opposition to the American annexation of Santo Domingo, agreed informally by the rulers of the two countries during 1868. According to Linton, President Grant had no right to claim that the Dominican Republic would be better off under their suzerainty, while their own republic was tainted down with Klansmen in the countryside and Tammanymen in the town. Moreover President Baéz of Santo Domingo, chosen without universal suffrage, had no mandate to sell his people. Americans professed to believe in national independence and democracy, but where were their protests now? Was the only protest to be `that of the stranger´?” (F.B. Smith).
The theme of the second chapter, the Circe-episode, is the hog-stall of Grant’s cronyism. The third one represents the descent into the Tartarus, where Grant – Ulysses meets all the shadows of his rascality, namely robber barons like the stock broker James Fisk and the major William “Boss” Tweed. In the concluding episode, the Sirens appear and the children of the sun. The latter eat their cattle and should represent the native Indians.
When Grant tried to apply for a third term, Linton sent copies of his indigestible satire “to the headquarters of Grant’s democrat opponent, Samuel Tilden, hoping, that the democrats would buy it for their campaign. Headquarters politely rejected it: the committee feared that the style was `too much above the average intelligence of the People they desire to influence´. `American Democracy!´ Linton scrawled across the letter.” (F.B. Smith)