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Historical Assesment Of Grant's Presidency


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#1 Mikel2

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Posted 27 January 2018 - 2132 PM

I've noticed that Grant normally does fairly badly in the lists of "best presidents", which somehow always end up with the most progressive presidents at the top of the list. When I covered his presidency in school in the mid 90s, it was mostly about the excesses of the Gilded Age and corruption. 

 

I think Grant as president deserves a great deal of credit for his efforts to unify the nation, his alignment with the Radical Republicans and his sincere efforts at Reconstruction, constantly sending federal troops to the South to suffocate violence against blacks and republicans, even after support for Reconstruction was waning in the North. Grant's attorney general, Akerman mercilessly prosecuted the Klan, which largely went extinct until revived in the early 20th century. His Indian policy was well-intentioned, even though in the end the indians ended up losing their lands and freedom. Grant's foreign policy was successful, with no foreign wars and the settling of the CSS Alabama issue with the UK. He also made some attempts at civil service reform.

 
On the negative side, he had his failed annexation of Santo Domingo, the inflation bill and above all, that his great ability to judge character and ability during his military career didn't translate into his political career, trusting many people of questionable character, tarnishing his presidency and continuing all the way to the end of his life (the Ferdinand Ward ponzi scheme that ruined him and many others shortly before his death). Despite this, his own integrity was never questioned.

 

From what I read, Grant remained popular and revered in the years that followed his presidency, but his popularity took a nosedive at the end of the century. Was this a result of the "lost cause" mythology that became prevalent at that time?


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#2 Rick

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Posted 28 January 2018 - 0725 AM

From my reading of historical reviews, the problem is the use of 20/20 hindsight. Also, with periodic "reviews", "revisions", etc. historians attempt to obtain perpetual tenure.


Edited by Rick, 28 January 2018 - 0816 AM.

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#3 Stuart Galbraith

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Posted 28 January 2018 - 1122 AM

Is it true he was a bankrupt when he died?

 

I bet there are precious few Presidents since who displayed a commendable lack of interest in feathering their nest.


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#4 Mikel2

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Posted 28 January 2018 - 1226 PM

Grant was broke because he had lost everything in a ponzi scheme. That's why he was desperately trying to finish his memoirs in the weeks before he died. In the nick of time, Congress awarded him a sizable pension as retired general of the armies.

Grant always was a complete failure when it came to money and those who trusted to manage it. He spent most of the pre-war years in near poverty and he certainly cared about money. H
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#5 Ivanhoe

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Posted 29 January 2018 - 0730 AM

I've noticed that Grant normally does fairly badly in the lists of "best presidents", which somehow always end up with the most progressive presidents at the top of the list. When I covered his presidency in school in the mid 90s, it was mostly about the excesses of the Gilded Age and corruption. 

 

I think Grant as president deserves a great deal of credit for his efforts to unify the nation, his alignment with the Radical Republicans and his sincere efforts at Reconstruction, constantly sending federal troops to the South to suffocate violence against blacks and republicans, even after support for Reconstruction was waning in the North. Grant's attorney general, Akerman mercilessly prosecuted the Klan, which largely went extinct until revived in the early 20th century. His Indian policy was well-intentioned, even though in the end the indians ended up losing their lands and freedom. Grant's foreign policy was successful, with no foreign wars and the settling of the CSS Alabama issue with the UK. He also made some attempts at civil service reform.

 

To some extent, the bolded phrases in the second paragraph can explain the bolded bit in the first. Grant was never going to do well by progressive historians of the early 20C.

 

One thing that I don't recall ever reading about is the mental fatigue Grant may have suffered after the war. Though he was still a young man chronologically when elected, I imagine him being low-energy in his time in office.


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#6 Mikel2

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Posted 29 January 2018 - 1941 PM

 

I've noticed that Grant normally does fairly badly in the lists of "best presidents", which somehow always end up with the most progressive presidents at the top of the list. When I covered his presidency in school in the mid 90s, it was mostly about the excesses of the Gilded Age and corruption. 

 

I think Grant as president deserves a great deal of credit for his efforts to unify the nation, his alignment with the Radical Republicans and his sincere efforts at Reconstruction, constantly sending federal troops to the South to suffocate violence against blacks and republicans, even after support for Reconstruction was waning in the North. Grant's attorney general, Akerman mercilessly prosecuted the Klan, which largely went extinct until revived in the early 20th century. His Indian policy was well-intentioned, even though in the end the indians ended up losing their lands and freedom. Grant's foreign policy was successful, with no foreign wars and the settling of the CSS Alabama issue with the UK. He also made some attempts at civil service reform.

 

To some extent, the bolded phrases in the second paragraph can explain the bolded bit in the first. Grant was never going to do well by progressive historians of the early 20C.

 

One thing that I don't recall ever reading about is the mental fatigue Grant may have suffered after the war. Though he was still a young man chronologically when elected, I imagine him being low-energy in his time in office.

 

 

It probably had to do with the limited role of the presidency at the time, even after the great growth in power of the federal gov't that came with the Civil War. My hero Coolidge was that way.  What came afterwards...


Edited by Mikel2, 29 January 2018 - 1943 PM.

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#7 Mikel2

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Posted 06 February 2018 - 2030 PM

I find the "revisionism" that came on both sides in the decades that followed the war rather interesting, both again revolving around slavery.  As slavery became a universally shameful institution, the "lost cause" in the south that de-emphasized the role of slavery in secession, and the opposite in the North, when the Union didn't primarily go to war to abolish slavery.  It is very interesting how a few decades changed people's perspective so much.

 

I remember reading a letter from from John Mosby in the early 1900s talking about this phenomena and mentioning this document, which is quite clear about the role of slavery in South Carolina's secession.

http://www.atlantahi...ssion-p1-13.pdf


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#8 Tim Sielbeck

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Posted 06 February 2018 - 2120 PM

I have read the articles of secession from a few states and all state slavery as one of, if not the, primary reasons for secession.


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#9 Murph

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Posted 07 February 2018 - 0711 AM

Much much better than Woodrow Wilson's presidency.  Grant actually was not that bad compared to others.  


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#10 Skywalkre

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Posted 07 February 2018 - 1722 PM

I find the "revisionism" that came on both sides in the decades that followed the war rather interesting, both again revolving around slavery.  As slavery became a universally shameful institution, the "lost cause" in the south that de-emphasized the role of slavery in secession, and the opposite in the North, when the Union didn't primarily go to war to abolish slavery.  It is very interesting how a few decades changed people's perspective so much.

 

I remember reading a letter from from John Mosby in the early 1900s talking about this phenomena and mentioning this document, which is quite clear about the role of slavery in South Carolina's secession.

http://www.atlantahi...ssion-p1-13.pdf

I was just reading about this revisionism yesterday (and to be honest I wasn't aware of it) and the author had an interesting observation about it.  Given the sheer destruction and loss of life, over 2% of our population, it's hard to view the Civil War as anything but tragic... unless you ask Black Americans.  They apparently view it in a very positive light, as most other Americans would view the Revolutionary War for example, given the war ended slavery.  When revisionist history, which is still strong as we saw with the recent debates around Confederate monuments and flags, removes the role slavery played it's harder to view the war in that positive light.


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#11 Mikel2

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Posted 07 February 2018 - 2006 PM

 

I find the "revisionism" that came on both sides in the decades that followed the war rather interesting, both again revolving around slavery.  As slavery became a universally shameful institution, the "lost cause" in the south that de-emphasized the role of slavery in secession, and the opposite in the North, when the Union didn't primarily go to war to abolish slavery.  It is very interesting how a few decades changed people's perspective so much.

 

I remember reading a letter from from John Mosby in the early 1900s talking about this phenomena and mentioning this document, which is quite clear about the role of slavery in South Carolina's secession.

http://www.atlantahi...ssion-p1-13.pdf

I was just reading about this revisionism yesterday (and to be honest I wasn't aware of it) and the author had an interesting observation about it.  Given the sheer destruction and loss of life, over 2% of our population, it's hard to view the Civil War as anything but tragic... unless you ask Black Americans.  They apparently view it in a very positive light, as most other Americans would view the Revolutionary War for example, given the war ended slavery.  When revisionist history, which is still strong as we saw with the recent debates around Confederate monuments and flags, removes the role slavery played it's harder to view the war in that positive light.

 

 

I guess even for the Civil War generation of the former confederate states, one could not justify such sacrifice based on something that was indefensible even for them, hence the "states rights" spiel.

 

James Longstreet said "why not talk about witchcraft if slavery was not the cause of the war. I never heard of any other cause of the quarrel than slavery"

 

I've had these lectures playing in the background at work... Some are quite interesting.

 


Edited by Mikel2, 07 February 2018 - 2108 PM.

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#12 Mikel2

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Posted 07 February 2018 - 2012 PM

Much much better than Woodrow Wilson's presidency.  Grant actually was not that bad compared to others.  

 

From a black civil rights point of view, how many presidents surpass Grant in terms of effort? I think he deserves a lot more recognition in that regard.


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#13 Skywalkre

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Posted 08 February 2018 - 0904 AM

 

Much much better than Woodrow Wilson's presidency.  Grant actually was not that bad compared to others.  

 

From a black civil rights point of view, how many presidents surpass Grant in terms of effort? I think he deserves a lot more recognition in that regard.

 

A Black civil rights point of view doesn't seem to be one that many historians, even though they seem to lean Left, take into account.  I'm not aware of what Grant did, though this thread has me interested in picking up a biography or two about him, but the aforementioned Wilson was a racist even by early 1900s standards.  The author I mentioned above also noted that FDR, another progressive champion, apparently only got much of the New Deal passed because of concessions to Southern politicians (Southern Democrats probably?  My US political history of the era is hazy.) that promised New Deal initiatives either directly ignored Blacks or made it easy for them to be overlooked/bypassed.  Both of these Presidents tend to be high on the 'best of' lists but seem to fail miserably from the perspective of advancing Black civil rights.


Edited by Skywalkre, 08 February 2018 - 0958 AM.

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#14 Brian Kennedy

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Posted 08 February 2018 - 1255 PM

 

 

Much much better than Woodrow Wilson's presidency.  Grant actually was not that bad compared to others.  

 

From a black civil rights point of view, how many presidents surpass Grant in terms of effort? I think he deserves a lot more recognition in that regard.

 

A Black civil rights point of view doesn't seem to be one that many historians, even though they seem to lean Left, take into account.  I'm not aware of what Grant did, though this thread has me interested in picking up a biography or two about him, but the aforementioned Wilson was a racist even by early 1900s standards.  The author I mentioned above also noted that FDR, another progressive champion, apparently only got much of the New Deal passed because of concessions to Southern politicians (Southern Democrats probably?  My US political history of the era is hazy.) that promised New Deal initiatives either directly ignored Blacks or made it easy for them to be overlooked/bypassed.  Both of these Presidents tend to be high on the 'best of' lists but seem to fail miserably from the perspective of advancing Black civil rights.

 

 

Came out a few years back but still a really good read: https://www.theatlan...vil-war/308831/


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#15 Harold Jones

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Posted 08 February 2018 - 1454 PM

This is pretty decent.  I have only made it half way through though so I don't know how it covers the post war years.  I borrowed it from the library and due to there being a wait list, I wasn't able to renew it and finish.  So I'm currently 25 of 25 for my next crack at it.

 

https://www.amazon.c...w/dp/159420487X


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#16 Skywalkre

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Posted 08 February 2018 - 1621 PM

 

 

 

Much much better than Woodrow Wilson's presidency.  Grant actually was not that bad compared to others.  

 

From a black civil rights point of view, how many presidents surpass Grant in terms of effort? I think he deserves a lot more recognition in that regard.

 

A Black civil rights point of view doesn't seem to be one that many historians, even though they seem to lean Left, take into account.  I'm not aware of what Grant did, though this thread has me interested in picking up a biography or two about him, but the aforementioned Wilson was a racist even by early 1900s standards.  The author I mentioned above also noted that FDR, another progressive champion, apparently only got much of the New Deal passed because of concessions to Southern politicians (Southern Democrats probably?  My US political history of the era is hazy.) that promised New Deal initiatives either directly ignored Blacks or made it easy for them to be overlooked/bypassed.  Both of these Presidents tend to be high on the 'best of' lists but seem to fail miserably from the perspective of advancing Black civil rights.

 

 

Came out a few years back but still a really good read: https://www.theatlan...vil-war/308831/

 

Coates just happens to be the author I was referring to.  I just finished We Were Eight Years in Power.  The Civil War essay you linked was the best part of the book and mentioned what I referred to above while the bits about Wilson and FDR were sprinkled throughout the other essays.  It's a shame his mindset is to simply fall back on everyone that's white is a racist/white supremacist but it was still a good book for all the references that I've added to my library list as well as the other examples of abuse/oppression/mistreatment suffered by Blacks in this country that I had never heard about before.


Edited by Skywalkre, 08 February 2018 - 1622 PM.

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#17 Skywalkre

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Posted 08 February 2018 - 1623 PM

This is pretty decent.  I have only made it half way through though so I don't know how it covers the post war years.  I borrowed it from the library and due to there being a wait list, I wasn't able to renew it and finish.  So I'm currently 25 of 25 for my next crack at it.

 

https://www.amazon.c...w/dp/159420487X

Thanks for the suggestion.  Added it to my own library list.


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#18 Mikel2

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Posted 08 February 2018 - 1937 PM

https://www.amazon.c...w/dp/159420487X

 

It is also available on audiobook format.  I have a long drive to work... Listening to audiobooks instead of talk radio has lowered my blood pressure considerably too ^_^

 

An interesting interview of the author:

 


Edited by Mikel2, 08 February 2018 - 1946 PM.

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#19 Mikel2

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Posted 08 February 2018 - 2040 PM

Ron Chernow on Grant with... Petraeus?

 


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#20 Mikel2

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Posted 09 February 2018 - 2002 PM


Edited by Mikel2, 09 February 2018 - 2027 PM.

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