You cannot fight a war for the Constitution, the Democrats argued, and then ignore it. This approach helped in November, when the Democrats took control of Congress. In his annual message to Congress in December , Grant defended himself. Since then the rise of the Republican Party in the former Confederacy has brought about major changes in politics.
But we still have not achieved what Grant spoke for in his last two sentences: "Treat the Negro as a citizen and a voter, as he is and must remain, and soon parties will be divided not on the color line but on principle. Then we shall have no complaint of sectional interference. In December, when the newly elected legislature came to New Orleans to organize for the session, Democrats and Republicans alike claimed a majority. Upon arrival, Sheridan informed Grant that it was obvious that the disorders were the result of the organized and armed White Leagues of the state Louisiana's version of the Ku Klux Klan.
The Democrats set up a howl at this. There were countless condemnatory editorials about Sheridan's use of the word "banditti. The Senate demanded that Grant provide information on Sheridan's actions. Grant complied.
Few residents, before or after the s, would disagree. He spoke of the many instances of mob violence and even political murder in Louisiana. He concluded that Sheridan's words were thoroughly justified. The Ku Klux Act gave him the power to prevent White Leagues or any such organization "using arms and violence" from governing any part of the country.
He would use the act to protect "Union men or Republicans from being ostracized, persecuted, and murdered on account of their opinions. But whatever the facts or the law, Grant realized that he could not have both peace and reconciliation and suffrage and other full rights for Negroes. It had to be one or the other. Even the Radical Republicans were deserting him as the presidential election drew nearer. One of them, the American consul at Nuremberg, Germany, asked the consul at Liverpool, "Is it not too dammed bad that our party should be ruined.
I believe Genl. He had never given in to the Confederates.
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But this time he succumbed to the deep rage of the white Southerners, whose fury at the "impudence of those niggers" was so monumental. This was politics, not a shooting war. Grant gave up. He sent no more Federal troops into the South. The presidential election of , to pick a successor to Grant, was disputed.
It was so close that the Congress had to set up a fifteen-member Electoral Commission to decide who won. The commission had eight Republicans, seven Democrats, and as expected each member voted his party's choice.
TO AMERICA: Personal Reflections of an Historian
Not until March 2, two days before Grant's term expired, was the count completed. Hayes won with electoral votes, to for Tilden.
What had happened was a deal between the Southern Democrats and the Northern Republicans. The deal was concluded on February 26, , at the Wormley Hotel in Washington. The Southerners said that if the Republicans promised to withdraw all Federal troops from the South, thus insuring "good" government in South Carolina and Louisiana which otherwise would remain Republican , the South would forgo any proposals to use force to inaugurate Tilden. The promise was made. The South also promised to treat the former slaves humanely. Of February 26, Hesseltine wrote, "Reconstruction ended, for the Hayes men promised that the troops would be withdrawn from the South.
In other words, the Republicans surrendered the Negro to the Southern ruling class, and abandoned the idealism of Reconstruction, in return for the peaceable inauguration of their President [Hayes]. Grant did not complain, but accepted what had been done. He had earlier set a precedent no other President until Eisenhower dared to emulate.
He did so to enforce civil rights for African Americans. So did Eisenhower, in , when he sent troops into Little Rock, Arkansas, to enforce a court order desegregating Central High. Until then, for eighty years, and more, Southern blacks lived in a system that banned private slavery but kept alive a public segregation that was the disgrace of the nation.
Over the half-century since I first sat in on an American history survey course, I've always been ready to praise Grant as a general, damn him as a politician. I was especially furious at the way he gave in to, or sold out to, the white supremacists. I realize now that when Grant threw up his hands, he had a reason. Had he been able to garner any support from prominent white Americans, he might have. But with Lincoln gone, there was no chance. Rather, Grantism as a term of opprobrium referred to the scandals of his administration. They were supposedly wide and deep and did irreparable harm to the nation.
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There was Orville Babcock, Grant's secretary, who pocketed money from the Whiskey Ring for sale of tax revenue stamps. The ring also distributed money to the Republican Party. There was corruption in the War Department and the Indian reservations, where trading post operators paid a kickback to higher officials. It was the Gilded Age, after all. The Civil War was over, the boom times had arrived. Fortunes were being made, and lost. In its own way, the United States during Grant's administration was somewhat like the United States in the s.
In foreign affairs, Grant's record, thanks in large part to his Secretary of State Hamilton Fish, was solid. Most notably, he managed to support Fish in negotiation of the Treaty of Washington , which lay the foundation for the amicable arbitration of U. Grant sent his Farewell Address to Congress in December He began with a personal note: "It was my fortune, or misfortune, to be called to the office of Chief Executive without any previous political training.
Under such circumstances it is but reasonable to suppose that errors of judgment must have occurred. Failures have been errors of judgment, not of intent. He and Julia and their son went on a two-and-a-half-year round-the-world tour, on which he was greeted everywhere by huge, enthusiastic crowds. On the first ballot, James G.
Blaine of Maine got votes, Senator John Sherman of Ohio got 93, two others got 34 and 30 respectively, and Grant led the way with votes were necessary to nominate. Grant held in there for a while, but finally he and Conkling and his supporters gave it up. Dark horse James A. Garfield won on the thirty-sixth ballot, with Chester A. Arthur as Vice President.
To America: Personal Reflections of an Historian - Wolfner Library
The trouble was that his partner, Ferdinand Ward, was a swindler. On the night of May 5, , Grant learned that the bank had failed and all his money was gone. He and Julia went over their assets. There was a house in Washington, and a small trust fund. The Grants were almost destitute.
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Grant recuperated by, of all things, writing. The Century Company asked him to prepare some articles for their projected series, "Battles and Leaders of the Civil War. The articles were an immediate success. Pleased with the results, he announced he would write his memoirs. Publishers swarmed to sign him up, but his friend Mark Twain of the Webster Company knew the American public's reading taste better than anyone else and his company offered by far the most liberal contract.
Grant was diagnosed with throat cancer, but managed to keep writing. A few days after finishing, he died on July 23, The book was an immense success, in sales and for his reputation. It proved what a splendid intellect Grant had, what a superb storyteller he was. Whatever my professors thought of him, whatever I told my students about him, he was a great American who did far more good for our country than most generals or Presidents can even approach.
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