Ulysses S. Grant

Let Us Have Peace: The Presidency of Ulysses S. Grant

Maryland State Archives
350 Rowe Boulevard
Annapolis, MD 21401

Phone: (410) 260-6400
Internet: mdsa.net
e-mail: archives@mdsa.net

Overview

Ulysses S. Grant was the Eighteenth President of the United States, serving from 1869-1877.  He was born  April 27, 1822 in Point Pleasant, New York. The family settled in Ohio and in 1839 Grant was appointed to West Point, from which he graduated in 1843. He fought in the Mexican War, emerging with the rank of captain.  In 1848 he married Julia Dent. Grant resigned from the army in 1854, and after several unsuccessful ventures, the family in 1860 moved to Galena, Illinois. After war broke out Grant tried several times before he was able to get a new army commission in June of 1861 with the 21st Illinois.

Grant is primarily remembered for his service during the Civil War, where he became Lincoln's favorite general as a result of his battle style coupled with impressive victories at Vicksburg and Chattanooga and his unrelenting pursuit of Lee. which ended in the latter's surrender at Appomattox. His Civil war successes made him enormously popular, and he was widely viewed as the "Savior of the Union." After the war he was named General of the Armies of the United States. 

Grant's career after the war is generally been considered less successful than his war-time one. In the period immediately after the war Grant was drawn into the middle of the political firestorms that surrounded President Johnson.  When the latter tried to fire Secretary of War Stanton under the Tenure of Office Act (March, 1867) Grant was temporarily named to the post.  He ultimately became extremely disillusioned and disdainful of Johnson, whom he viewed as obstructing efforts to reconcile and reconstruct the South.

Grant was a somewhat reluctant presidential candidate. However, in 1868 the Republican Party's need to find a moderate candidate who could win the election, Grant's popularity, his own desire to see the peace succeed, and his belief that a statesmanlike approach to Reconstruction was needed to save the peace from politics and partisanship, led him to accept the nomination. Although Grant did not actively campaign, he was able to easily defeat the Democratic candidate, former New York governor Horatio Seymour. He won 26 of 34 states and an electoral college majority of 214-80. Grant won re-election in 1872, defeating Horace Greeley, the New York newspaper editor and publisher best remembered today for his phrase "Go West Young Man."

Grant's Presidency was marred by a series of scandals, including Black Friday, September 24, 1969, which involved Grant's brother-in-law, and financiers Jay Gould and Jim Fisk, and the Whiskey Ring, which compromised important Grant appointees, including Grant's private secretary. Grant was never implicated in any of these, but he has long been perceived as having poor judgment and weak political skills when it came to his choice of cabinet and those in whom he trusted. Opinion on this is changing, however. Grant scholars like Brooks Simpson believe that the president's ability to foster coalitions, his judicious use of the veto, and ability to effectively use patronage may revise the general opinion.

During Grant's presidency a number of important legislative and constitutional actions took effect.  Highlights of his presidency included the 15th Amendment, which gave all citizens the right to vote, and the Treaty of Washington, which settled American claims against Britain arising from the Civil War. He also introduced the first Civil Service reform legislation. Grant also signed into law a series of Reconstruction related  "Enforcement Acts" designed to address the difficulties newly enfranchised black citizens faced in the defeated South. These laws banned state laws that denied blacks the right to vote, outlawed fraudulent voter-registration practices, and authorized federal court supervision of suspicious elections. The Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 prevented illegal intimidation of blacks where states were unwilling or unable to provide protection, making it a federal crime for private parties to conspire to violate civil rights. In 1875 he signed last major piece of Civil Rights legislation until 1964.

Grant left office in 1877.  In his final message to congress he provided one of the most candid assessments of his achievements ever presented by a president. He was almost re-nominated in 1880 at a Republican Convention that ultimately nominated James Garfield. Upon leaving office, Grant, who thought himself comfortably settled financially suffered a devastating financial again related to a family member's inopportune activities.  Finding himself in considerable debt, he began to write, and in 1885 signed a contract with Mark Twain to write his Memoirs.  By then Grant already knew he suffered from a fatal cancer.  As a result of the disease he was forced to hand-write all but the first section. Shortly after their completion, Grant died.  The Memoirs sold enough copies to cover the family's debts, and provide for Mrs. Grant.  Grant and his wife are buried in New York City, in a tomb dedicated in 1897.

SOURCES:  Brooks D. Simpson, Let Us Have Peace: Ulysses S. Grant the Politics of War & Reconstruction, 1861-1868  (Chapel Hill: University of Carolina Press. 1991); Brooks D. Simpson, "Another Look at the Grant Presidency," Proceedings of the South Carolina Historical Association (1990): 7-16; The U.S. Grant Association; Legal Affairs Magazine July-August 2002.

National History Standards

Materials compiled in this document can be used by educators to fulfill the following National History Standards for Grades 5-12:

Era 5: Civil War and Reconstruction (1850-1877)

STANDARD 3: How various reconstruction plans succeeded or failed.

Standard 3A: The student understands the political controversy over Reconstruction.

5-12: Explain the provisions of the 14th and 15th amendments and the political forces supporting and opposing each. [Consider multiple perspectives]

Standard 3C: The student understands the successes and failures of Reconstruction in the South, North, and West.

5-12: Assess the progress of “Black Reconstruction” and legislative reform programs promoted by reconstructed state governments. [Marshal evidence of antecedent circumstances] 
5-12: Evaluate why corruption increased in the postwar period. [Analyze multiple causation] 

Primary Resources

  1. DESCRIPTION:  Let Us Have Peace
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:  May 29, 1868
    NOTES: Grant's famous phrase "Let Us Have Peace" was included in his acceptance to the Republican Convention in 1868, and became the slogan for his campaign Let us have peace transcription
    SOURCE: US Grant Network   
    REPOSITORY : New York Historical Society   

  2. DESCRIPTION: The Working Man's Banner
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:  1868
    NOTES: This banner refers to Grant's working time at his father's tanning factory in Galena (which he hated) and his running mate's profession
    REPRODUCTIONS: How to order copies of this item
    COPYRIGHT: Rights and Restrictions
    REPOSITORY: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA 

  3. DESCRIPTION:  U. S. Grant and the colored people. His wise, just, practical, and effective friendship thoroughly vindicated by incontestable facts in his record from 1862 to 1872. Words of truth and soberness! He who runs may read and understand!! Be not deceived, only truth can endure!!!
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:  [Washington, D.C. : Published by the Union Republican Congressional Committee, 1872]
    NOTES A brief address written by Frederick Douglass in the midst of the 1872 election campaign designed to document Ulysses S. Grant's support for African American liberation and civil rights. Douglass hoped thereby to rally the black vote for Grant
    REPRODUCTIONS: How to Order Reproductions
    COPYRIGHT: Copyright and Other Restrictions
    SOURCE:  From Slavery to Freedom: The African-American Pamphlet Collection, 1824-1909
    REPOSITORY: Library of Congress

  4. DESCRIPTION:  [Mrs. Ulysses S. Grant, full-length portrait, standing, facing right, between table and chair]
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:  [photographed between 1869 and 1877(?), printed later]
    NOTES: Grant married Julia Dent in 1848.
    REPRODUCTIONS: How to order copies of this item
    COPYRIGHT: Rights and Restrictions
    SOURCE:  Brady-Handy Collection
    REPOSITORY:  Library of Congress

  5. DESCRIPTION: Inaugural Address in Grant's Hand  
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED  March 4, 1869
    NOTESGrant  First Inaugural Transcription from the Avalon Project at Yale Law School
    REPRODUCTIONS: How to Order Photographic Reproductions
    COPYRIGHT: Copyright and Other Restrictions
    SOURCE:  "I Do Solemnly Swear ...": Presidential Inaugurations
    REPOSITORY: Library of Congress

  6. DESCRIPTION:  The "Boy of the period" stirring up the animals: Black Friday, September 1869
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: [New York] : Currier & Ives, 1869. 
    NOTES: When Fisk and Gould tried to corner the gold market, Grant saved the market by having the federal government sell $5 million in gold to restore prevailing prices.
    REPRODUCTIONS: How to obtain copies of this item
    COPYRIGHT: Rights and Restrictions
    SOURCE:  Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA 

  7. DESCRIPTION: The 15th Amendment Celebrated May 19, 1870  
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:  Thomas Kelly, 17 Barclay St., c1870
    NOTES: The Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified and enacted in early spring, 1870, gave male citizens the right to vote regardless of race, color, or previous condition of servitude. The center of the lithograph depicts a parade held in Baltimore, Maryland. Surrounding the central scene are political portraits and those of notable abolitionists as well as scenes of African Americans freely participating in the cultural, economic, religious, political, and military life of the nation
    REPRODUCTIONS: How to obtain copies of this item
    COPYRIGHT: Rights and Restrictions
    REPOSITORY: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA

  8. DESCRIPTION: It is a bad rule that don't work both ways / Th. Nast
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:  [published 1872]
    NOTES: This Harper's Magazine cover by the famous cartoonist Thomas Nast is a commentary on the US claims arising from the Civil War and represents Uncle Sam speaking to the Geneva court about Alabama claims. Liberty(?) sits in the seat of judgement.
    REPRODUCTIONS: How to obtain copies of this item
    COPYRIGHT: Rights and Restrictions
    SOURCE:  Harper's Magazine
    REPOSITORY:  Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C., 20540 USA

  9. DESCRIPTION:  President Ulysses S. Grant delivering his inaugural address on the east portico of the U.S. Capitol, March 4, 1873]
    PHOTOGRAPHER: Mathew B. Brady (1823-ca. 1896)
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:  [1873]
    REPRODUCTIONS: How to obtain copies of this item
    COPYRIGHT: Rights and Restrictions
    REPOSITORY:  Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C., 20540 USA 

  10. DESCRIPTION: Inaugural Address, March 4, 1869, in Grant's Hand
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: March 4, 1869
    NOTES: Transcription of Inaugural Address available from The Avalon Project of The Yale Law School.
    REPRODUCTIONS: How to Order Photographic Reproductions
    COPYRIGHT: Copyright and Other Restrictions
    SOURCE:  "I Do Solemnly Swear ...": Presidential Inaugurations
    REPOSITORY: Library of Congress

  11. DESCRIPTION: The Second Civil Rights Act March 1. 1875
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED: March 1, 1875
    NOTES:  This bill was the last major act of Civil Rights Legislation until 1964. It was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1885, to the dismay of many.  See this 1893 response, which also includes the text of the original legislation. The Barbarous Decision of the United States Supreme Court.
    SOURCE: History Central
    REPOSITORY: Library of Congress

  12. DESCRIPTION: U.S. Grant's 8th Annual Message
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:  December 5, 1876
    NOTES: In this remarkably candid final State of the Union address, Grant acknowledges his shortcomings. 
    SOURCE: The American Presidency Project at USC at Santa Barbara 
    REPOSITORY: Public Domain

  13. DESCRIPTION: Gen. U.S. Grant writing his memoirs, Mount McGregor, June 27th, 1885.
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:  June 27, 1885
    NOTES: Ulysses Grant was near death when this picture was completed, and struggling to complete his memoirs.  He traveled to Mount McGregor to escape the heat.
    REPRODUCTIONS: How to obtain copies of this item
    COPYRIGHT: Rights and Restrictions
    REPOSITORY: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540

  14. DESCRIPTION: U.S. Grant Memoirs
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:  1885
    NOTES: Grant completed these memoirs shortly before his death. They are considered among the finest presidential memoirs ever written, and the final chapter gives an interesting overview of Grant's feelings about slavery and his life.
    SOURCE:  The E. B. Long edition of 1952 was used, with [brackets] indicating factual information provided by Long. HTML coding by Richard Jensen for History On-Line. Another online version  of Grant's Memoirs (2) is available at Project Gutenberg.  

  15. DESCRIPTION: Grant's Tomb, New York
    DATE CREATED/PUBLISHED:  c1901
    NOTES:  Ulysses Grant died July 23, 1885. Three presidents attended his funeral. Grant had spent most of the last four years of his life in New York City, and upon his death New York City offered ground in one of its parks for a tomb. The tomb, ultimately located in Riverside Park was completed in 1897, and dedicated April 27, on what would have been Grant's 75th birthday.  Upon her death in 1902 Julia Dent was buried with her husband.
    SOURCE:  Detroit Publishing Co. Photograph Collection
    REPRODUCTIONS: How to obtain copies of this item
    COPYRIGHT: Rights and Restrictions
    REPOSITORY:  Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C. 20540 USA 

Additional Media Resources

US Grant Association Site with detailed resources on Grant, his career and presidency. In addition to photographs, chronology and contemporary newspaper and other writings, it features an extensive bibliography. 

The American President: Grant University of Virginia site on American Presidents. Includes biography, key events, key personnel in Grant Administration, writings. A gallery of Grant Cartoons can be found at this site. 

US Grant Network  Developed by a professor at the College of St. Scholastica in Duluth, Minnesota, but not affiliated with the college, it seems to have regular updates, and be in operation for a number of years. 

U.S. Grant Homepage.  This private site on Grant features more than 200 pages of information, images, texts, chronologies on Grant.  In existence since 1999, seems to be frequently updated. 

C-Span American Presidents:  Grant.  Site offers brief descriptions, and a number of video clips on Grant. 

Biography at the White House  

General Grant National Memorial Ulysses and Julia Dent Grant were buried in New York City.

Grant's Galena Home Grant moved to Galena, Illinois before the Civil War, and continued to visit it until his death.

Additional Instructional Resources 

The American Experience PBS: Teachers Guide  Part of the American Experience on PBS

Ulysses S. Grant, a Guide for Students   Part of the U.S. Grant Network site

Secondary Resources

McPherson, James M. Ordeal by Fire: the Civil War and Reconstruction. Boston: McGraw-Hill, 2001.

McFeely, William S. Grant: A Biography. New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 1981.

Perret, Geoffrey. Ulysses S. Grant: Soldier & President. New York: Random House, 1997.

Brooks D. Simpson, Let Us Have Peace: Ulysses S. Grant the Politics of War & Reconstruction, 1861-1868, Chapel Hill: University of Carolina Press, 1991

Brooks D. Simpson, "Another Look at the Grant Presidency," Proceedings of the South Carolina Historical Association 1990: 7-16.

For younger readers:

Howard N. Meyer, Let us Have Peace:  The Life of Ulysses S. Grant New York: Collier Books, 1966

Password Access to Journal Articles

Some journal articles linked to this site require password access due to copyright and other restrictions. Teachers participating in the Teaching American History in Maryland program with a valid University of Maryland (UMBC) Library card can access these materials through ResearchPort.

Associated Heritage and Preservation Organizations

Ulysses S. Grant Statue/Capitol Hill
West Mall & Fist Street Streets
Washington, DC.

Copyright and Other Restrictions

Access to materials linked within these document packets is intended for educational and research purposes. The written permission of the copyright owners and/or holders of other rights (such as publicity and privacy rights) is required for distribution, reproduction, or other use beyond that allowed by fair use or other statutory exemptions. The responsibility for making an independent legal assessment and independently securing any necessary rights rests with persons desiring to use particular items in the context of the intended use.

Password Access to Materials

The use of any user name and password to access materials on this web site constitutes an agreement by the user to abide by any and all copyright restrictions and is an acknowledgement that these materials will be used for personal and educational use only. In most instances, the username aaco and password aaco# will work. Contact ref@mdsa.net if you have any questions or have difficulty accessing files.

Credits

Teaching American History in Maryland is a collaborative partnership of the Maryland State Archives and the Center for History Education (CHE), University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC), and the following sponsoring school systems: Anne Arundel County Public Schools, Baltimore City Public School System, Baltimore County Public Schools, and Howard County Public Schools.

Other program partners include the Martha Ross Center for Oral History, Maryland Historical Society, State Library Resource Center/Enoch Pratt Free Library, with assistance from the National Archives and Records Administration and the Library of Congress. The program is funded through grants from the U.S. Department of Education.

This document packet was researched and developed by Karen A. Lubieniecki.

An Archives of Maryland Online Publication
© Copyright, Maryland State Archives, March 22, 2005