Guide Our Red Brothers and the Peace Policy of President Ulysses S. Grant

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An even greater accomplishment lay in his thwarting the Anglophobes who threatened to bring on war with England and in liquidating all the disputes between the countries by peaceful means. He knew little or nothing of the law or of constitutional principles and procedures. Secretary Fish had to inform him that treaties are submitted to the Senate, not to the House, and that the President and not Congress was empowered by the Constitution to negotiate treaties.

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For all his inadequacies, Grant had come to office with one marvelous advantage, an advantage that never failed to outweigh in the popular mind the disgrace with which his subordinates plastered his Administration. He was the incarnation of a folk hero, an indestructible legend. He had saved the Union, and in the affections of the plain people of the North there was no one who could begin to rival the place he held. This vast reservoir of popular devotion was the one asset that Grant never fully lost. His popularity did wane, however, and one great drain upon it was the failure of his Reconstruction policy.

The greatest single problem of his Administration, Reconstruction of the South, came eventually to represent one of its weakest aspects. The promise had been of better things. He had entered the White House uncommitted to the policies of extremists, and his first message to Congress recommended a conciliatory policy of amnesty toward Virginia, Mississippi, and Texas. Moderates cheered the President and thought a new day had dawned. They were quickly disillusioned, however, for Grant fell under the influence of the extremists and went over completely to their southern policy.

When resistance sprang up in the southern states, he reacted according to his military indoctrination to restore order by the unstinted use of force, and order was identified in his mind with the carpetbagger governments. With the authority he requested of Congress in the three Enforcement Acts, which included the Ku Klux Klan Act, Grant moved in rigorously with martial law, suspension of the writ of habeas corpus, and the use of troops, federal marshals, and deputies. Local police power fell into the hands of the Army and the Federal Department of Justice. In spite of these measures the country continued to read of violent resistance, riots, and atrocities, and in one state after another the Republican administrations were driven from power until only three were left.

Finding himself supporting people in whom he had no faith and could not trust, Grant himself came eventually to admit the bankruptcy of his own policy. President Cirant is sometimes pictured as the victim of trusted friends and associates whose duplicity and corruption were not revealed until the end of his Administration. It is true that much of the exposure of scandal did not occur until and But in the early months of his first year in the White House a scandal large enough to rock the country should have put him on strictest guard against recurrence. This would have been possible with government connivance.

The conspirators came very near accomplishing their purpose and wrecking the finances and the foreign trade of the country. They were only stopped, after hundreds were ruined, by a belated order from Grant to sell government gold.

The negligence of Grant and his secretary of the treasury, who had been amply warned of the conspiracy, was bad enough. It had been less than a year since the piratical Erie Railroad war had established Gould and Fisk as the two most unscrupulous and lawless railroad speculators and corruptionists in the country, and Jim Fisk was at the crest of his career as the flashiest debauchee in New York.

Much of the blame attributed to Grant was guilt by association. But it must be admitted that the President was grossly careless about his associates. Personally honest in matters of money, he seemed incapable of spotting a rogue. His heavy responsibility for some of the scandals of his time was indirect and grew out of his blind loyalty to friends and his weakness for men of wealth.

But even before this, scandals began to break nearer home to the Administration—ironically enough, in the province of the most honorable member of the Cabinet, Secretary Fish. Hard upon that came the exposure of the sorry adventures of General T. Van Buren in Vienna.

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Grant had appointed his old friend Van Buren, a noisy politician with no competence for the job, to take charge of American exhibits at an international fair to be held in at Vienna. Van Buren and his associates promptly disgraced the country abroad by selling concessions at the fair, and Fish had to recall them.

More serious was the misconduct of Robert C. Soon after his arrival in London he fell under criticism of the British press for permitting his name to appear as a director of the Emma Silver-Mining Company of Utah in advertisements seeking to sell shares of the firm in Britain. The bottom dropped out of the Emma Mine and the English victims were angrily complaining of their losses and calling attention to the affluence of the American minister. Not until four years later, after a congressional investigation had disclosed that Schenck had sold the use of his name to the shady operators of the Emma Company and disposed of his stock holdings at a high price, was the Minister called home in disgrace.

Frequent performances of the same sort indicate that the President had lost whatever sensitivity he once had to criticism and public opinion. In a congressional committee confirmed charges of the press that James F. Yet shortly after this exposure Grant reappointed Casey for another four-year term.

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In the summer of a great clamor of protest was raised against the extravagance and jobbery of Boss Alexander R. Shepherd, vice president of the District of Columbia Board of Works, and his corrupt ring of contractors. At the height of the uproar President Henry D. Cooke resigned. In this, as in many similar cases, Babcock was the manipulating force at work. The same lamentable lapses of judgment carried over from minor to major matters. Conkling proved himself wiser than the President by declining the appointment.

Grant then sent in the name of Attorney General George H. Williams, a nomination that caused dismay in both Senate and press. Confronted with charges that he and his wife had illegally used funds of the Department of Justice to pay extravagant living expenses, Williams was forced to ask that his nomination be withdrawn.

Grant did withdraw his nomination as Chief Justice but inexcusably allowed the discredited man to remain in his Cabinet as the chief law-enforcing officer of the country. Corruption spread like an epidemic through the Cabinet, erupting in scandals that disgraced one member after another. Secretary of the Treasury William A.

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Richardson was found to have connived with one John D. Sanborn, who turned a contract for the collection of delinquent taxes into an extortionary racket for the profit of himself and his associates. The President then appointed the disgraced Secretary to be judge on the Court of Claims. In the meantime it became plain to all the well informed except Grant that scandals in other departments justified impeachment, or dismissal at least, of two more Cabinet members.

As usual, the President stubbornly defended the men under fire. Attorney General Williams had been allowed to escape the consequences of earlier misdeeds, but when it appeared that his wife had engaged in blackmail and extortion and he had been guilty of corrupt negligence, he was finally permitted to resign.

Fish prevented him from getting the Russian ministry, with which Grant wished to reward him. Another outstanding embarrassment was Secretary of the Interior Columbus Delano, subject of numerous exposures by the press. Delano was permitted to resign secretly and retire at his convenience. One unexpected good came of the resignation of the Secretary of the Treasury in the shape of his successor, Benjamin H.

Bristow, a tall, lean, energetic Kentuckian with a fierce zeal for reform.

Ulysses S. Grant

He was soon on the trail of bigger game than he knew. Moving with great secrecy and patience, Bristow suddenly sprang a trap that caught some of the most notorious racketeers of the time, the Whiskey Ring. Organized in , it operated systematically to defraud the government of millions of dollars in liquor revenue and to distribute the loot to politicians, tax collectors, and Treasury officials who worked for the ring.

McDonald of St. It looked as if at last the arch conspirator of numerous cabals and rings around the White House would be exposed. The secretary conferred with McDonald repeatedly, and Grant met him publicly and openly expressed sympathy for him. He even persuaded some that the President was a member of the ring.

Louis on whom we can rely—John McDonald. He sought first to get the case transferred to a military court, and when that failed he issued orders crippling the prosecution. With that the President suddenly announced to his Cabinet that he proposed to go to St.

Our red brothers and the peace policy of President Ulysses S. Grant

Louis himself and appear personally to testify for his secretary. Reformers were strengthened, however, by a Democratic House intent upon exposing Republicans, and scandals broke faster than ever. Secretary of War W. The Senate celebrated the centenary of American independence by dragging out the sordid details in an impeachment trial. Belknap was cleared by a strict party vote. Next came the turn of Secretary of the Navy George M. The only apparent explanation for the sudden riches of a relatively poor man was his membership in a Philadelphia firm that had also become suddenly rich from naval contracts.

The House Judiciary Committee became too busy with the disputed presidential election of to decide on impeachment proceedings, but it did recommend the court-martialing of certain naval officers. Grant permitted Robeson to remain in his Cabinet. During its last months the Grant Administration virtually came apart at the seams. Whole departments were demoralized or staffed with raw and inexperienced recruits. The Cabinet was in a turmoil of resignations and appointments, and the President was patently without a policy to his name and losing much popular respect. Investigating committees of Congress were busy digging up the disgraceful details of the relations between the White House and the Whiskey Ring.

The only initiative Grant seemed to be capable of taking was in firing the two remaining reformers in his Cabinet, Bristow of the Treasury and Marshall Jewell of the Post Office. Within a single week the heads that rolled in addition to those of the Secretary of the Treasury and Postmaster General were those of a commissioner of internal revenue, a chief of special agents, a district attorney, a first auditor and fifth auditor of the Treasury, and a solicitor of the Treasury.

No Administration in our history has closed with such general demoralization as that of Grant. The only thing that distracted public attention from the bankruptcy of the national government was the near-bankruptcy of the electoral process in the Hayes-Tilden contested election. Its competing furor of war threats, vote selling, state purchasing, bribery, jobbery, and graft quite drowned out the noise the Grant Administration made in collapsing. After it was all over and had begun to fade into the past, the Grant Administration began to seem more and more like something that had happened to Grant and the American people rather than something Grant or the American people had done, more a misfortune than a misdeed.

Between the General and the people there grew a bond of bereavement and a mutual need for vindication. Both had seen their finest memories and the noblest drama of their lives sullied by a sordid and seemingly irrelevant epilogue. And in their hearts the people knew that no final court of justice could recognize the validity of such a transaction. Somehow Vicksburg and the Wilderness had to be redeemed, and with them a hero and a dream. Two years and more of wandering around the world collecting honors from crowned heads and listening to the cheers of crowds salved his pride and touched national pride.