Upon appointing Ulysses S. Grant General of the Armies in March 1864, President Lincoln told him that procrastination from previous commanders and pressure from Congress and the people “had forced him into issuing his [Lincoln’s] series of military orders, some of which he knew were wrong, and all of which may have been wrong.” This on the authority of President Grant’s first-born son, Maj. Gen. Frederick Dent Grant.
Lincoln told Grant that all he wanted, “or ever wanted, was someone who would take the responsibility of action, and would call upon him, as the executive of the government, for such supplies as were needed.”
With the possible exception of George Washington, Abe Lincoln was surely our greatest president. His keen senses of observation and humor allowed him to laugh at himself, and his learning helped him bear others’ laughter and jibes with equanimity.
Another indisputably great leader was Queen Elizabeth I, who reigned for 45 years — nine times longer than Mr. Lincoln.
After 10 years on the throne, Elizabeth’s “one noticeable [physical] deterioration was due to her propensity for reading and studying,” according to her late biographer Mary Luke.
One of Elizabeth’s many enemies, a French ambassador, wrote: “She is a great princess who is ignorant of nothing.”
Her greatest councilor, William Cecil, Lord Burghley, agreed: “No one of her Councillors could tell her what she knew not.”
Even the Pope, who excommunicated her as a heretic and plotted her death, wrote that in all of Europe, he and Elizabeth “were the only rulers capable of their tasks.”
Now let’s look at a ruler who differed from these two magnificent leaders, being incompetent and deluded: Mary Queen of Scots.
(‘Why is he digging up the dead, in this fast-moving Internet Age, you ask? Patience, my friends. The end [of this column] is near.)
Mary Stuart had a lot of problems: sexual incontinence, for one. Her first husband died King of France. Mary wept, and she’d truly loved him.
Then she married a Scotsman: Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley — for the sexual attraction, if we can believe the historians. They were just kids.
When the attraction wore off, as it does, Mary had her husband murdered.
Then she married the man who’d arranged it: James Hepburn, Earl of Bothwell.
Youngsters, those days …
The murder of the King of Scotland, and the Queen’s role in it, scandalized Europe.
Not to mention her marriage with the murderer.
Mary claimed she had been nowhere near the scene of the crime, though the whole town had seen her leave it, preceded by a torchlight procession, just before the house exploded.
This is all true.
As she began her reign as Queen of Scotland, Mary had the support of all of England’s traditional enemies: France, Spain, the Pope and many of her own Scottish Lords.
As a Catholic, Mary also had the support of millions of Englishmen and purt near half of Elizabeth’s Council of State.
But Mary blew it.
How did Mary blow it?
By lying, over and over.
Lying so often, relentlessly and brazenly that she lost all of her allies — even those who did back flips trying to support her.
Mary swore fealty to Elizabeth while writing letters to the Pope and to the kings of France and Spain, begging them to invade England.
Elizabeth intercepted the letters.
Mary conspired to murder Queen Elizabeth, who intercepted those letters too — while Mary was writing Her Majesty flattering letters, kissing the hem of her gown.
So incompetent and deluded was Mary that she did not understand that the only thing keeping her head on her shoulders was the very government she was denouncing.
On Jan. 20, 1569 — 17 years before Elizabeth finally gave in, and had Mary’s head chopped off — Elizabeth wrote to the Scottish Queen: “Be not over confident in what you do. Be not blind nor think me blind. If you are wise, I have said enough.”
But Mary kept lying and plotting and conspiring.
Among her many defenses for this was that she was “an anointed Queen,” and so could not be judged by anyone.
Donald Trump is making the same argument today.
It kept Mary alive for 19 years. But we’re in the Internet Age. Things move faster now.