Eloquence of language. Eloquence of action.
In modern politics we get a lot of the former, a dearth of the latter.
So I was refreshed to read of a Congressman willing to sacrifice his election for a greater good.
In Grant and Twain: The Story of a Friendship that Changed America, author Mark Perry poignantly describes the financial troubles of former president Ulysses S. Grant toward the end of his life.
Defrauded, deeply in debt, and fearful he would leave his wife impoverished, Grant raced against terminal tongue cancer to finish his memoirs. That drama, and the part Mark Twain played in encouraging Grant and ultimately publishing the memoirs, is the main focus of Perry's book.
One of the sub-plots, however, involves the campaign to have Congress pass, and the president sign, a bill restoring Grant's military pension. When Grant resigned his rank (instead of retiring) to allow other officers to be promoted, he automatically barred himself from receiving a pension. With Grant now terminally ill, the Speaker of the House sought to introduce the bill and get it passed with one hour before Congress adjourned.
Mark Perry describes what happened:
...at precisely eleven A.M., [the Speaker, Samuel J. Randall] surrendered the chair and asked his replacement to consider the Grant reinstatement bill. The new chair, however, overruled him, arguing that the House had not yet considered the matter of the disputed Iowa election. The dispute, between George Frederick (who had been certified by the Iowa Board of Elections) and James Wilson (the incumbent Republican...), was a contentious partisan issue. Wilson had claimed that the Iowa board had wrongly certified his challenger.... The debate, it seemed, would drag on forever, as Democrats and Republicans began to muster their votes. But at the last minute, Wilson rose from his chair and announced that he would withdraw his objection to the Iowa election results if the House would immediately move to consider the Grant bill. The announcement was met with a stunned silence and then cascading applause; Wilson had given up his seat so that Grant could receive his pension. Within minutes the Grant bill passed. (Grant and Twain, page 158)
Nothing eloquent in the words Wilson spoke, but superb eloquence in his action.
If you are interested in Ulysses S. Grant, Mark Twain, the American Civil War, the writing of what Ernest Hemingway called "the beginning of American nonfiction" (Grant's Memoirs), or just a captivating, well-told story, I recommend Perry's book. For further information or to order through Amazon, click the link under "Books I Recommend" in the right column.