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The American by Howard Fast (Excerpt)

The American by Howard Fast (Excerpt)

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Published by OpenRoadMedia
John Peter Altgeld fought for Lincoln as a foot soldier in the Union Army, then followed in his footsteps from law to politics, eventually becoming governor of Illinois in 1896. Howard Fast’s dazzling fictional account of Altgeld’s life offers an inspirational example of a man who made great sacrifices for quintessentially American ideals.
John Peter Altgeld fought for Lincoln as a foot soldier in the Union Army, then followed in his footsteps from law to politics, eventually becoming governor of Illinois in 1896. Howard Fast’s dazzling fictional account of Altgeld’s life offers an inspirational example of a man who made great sacrifices for quintessentially American ideals.

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Published by: OpenRoadMedia on Jul 03, 2012
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09/29/2013

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THE AMERICAN 
By Howard Fast
On June 5th, the silver convention met at Springfield. Bathhouse JohnCoughlin, who had staged more torchlight parades and beer picnics than hecared to remember, planned the convention from beginning to end, and itwent off without a hitch.On the evening before it began, there was a torchlight processionthrough the streets of Springfield to the executive mansion. The delegateswalked arm in arm, eight abreast, chanting, “Altgeld! Altgeld! The son of Illinois! Altgeld! Altgeld? The son of Illinois?” Almost every citizen turnedout to watch, and hundreds of children scampered in and out of the column,shouting and laughing and hooting. Bathhouse John had planted thirty kegsof beer under ice at the fire-house, and since he let the word get around, itwas practically certain that none of the citizens would go to bed before thedemonstration had run its course. It was a part of Bathhouse John’s uniquegenius as a politician that he sincerely loved people, and that made him see ademonstration not as a shouting, noisy mob, but as a rounded whole of the people. He handed out passes to the state grounds to every boy who would bring a date, and now as the parade came onto the lawn in front of themansion, it was surrounded by boys in their best suits and girls in crispwhite organdy; and as they all gathered there, the Cook County band beganto play a wonderful new song that was taking the country by storm:
 
 
Oh beautiful for spacious skies, For amber waves of grain, For purple mountain majesties Above the fruited plain. America! America!God shed his Grace on thee, And crown thy good with brotherhood  From sea to shining sea.
All this time, Altgeld was standing behind the doors, Emmanext to him, Brand Whitlock on the other side, and through a space inthe curtains he watched them come up and onto the lawn. It was thefirst time he had ever heard the song played and sung by so manyyoung voices, and it moved him curiously. He watched the faces inthe flickering torchlight, thinking all the while of the hours he hadspent with Bathhouse John, planning this, of how fixed and preciseand manipulated every detail of it Was, from the first beginnings tothis to wherever it would take them—then meeting Emma’s eyes, andknowing almost as well as she what was behind them, what thoughts,what fears, what endless, inescapable confusion.Then he felt the pressure of young Whitlock’s hand and realizedthat out there they were chanting his name and calling for him. Hecouldn’t go; he was rooted where he stood, and he felt that no force onearth could impel him out there onto the veranda. He looked at Emmawith real terror in his eyes. Whitlock was urging him:

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