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Democracy: An American Novel


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By Henry Adams, was published anonymously in 1880. “Old Granite” is believed to represent President Hayes.

Madeleine Lee, a young New York widow, moves to Washington to investigate “the tremendous forces of government, and the machinery of society, at work. What she wanted was Power.” With her sister Sybil, she creates a salon, attends Senate debates, and entertains legislators and diplomats. Through her admirer John Carrington, a lawyer, she captures as her guest the political boss, Senator Ratcliffe of Illinois, whose party has just elected the new President, “Old Granite.” The President-elect, an unsophisticated Indiana lawyer, is lost among the capital's intrigues, and, though he hates and distrusts Ratcliffe, is forced to place control of patronage in his hands, and to appoint him secretary of the treasury. During the months before the inauguration, Ratcliffe falls in love with Madeleine, who is first repelled by his coarse vanity, then fascinated by his self-command and position. Carrington, who under-takes with Sybil a secret campaign against the senator, is sent to Mexico on business, but through Sybil he reveals to Madeleine that Ratcliffe is guilty of selling his influence. Disillusioned, she now refuses his proposal, at which Ratcliffe calls her a heartless coquette and departs wrathfully. Having learned enough of the mechanism and instruments of power, Madeleine deserts Washington for a tour of Europe, and Sybil writes Carrington that he may yet hope to win her sister's hand.

Subjects: Literature.


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Henry Adams (1838—1918)


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