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The Ulysses S. Grant Administration: 1869-1877
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The Ulysses S. Grant Administration (Republican, 1869-1877)
The famous Union Civil War General Ulysses S. Grant was considered a great general but a terrible president. He consistently ranks near the bottom of the historian's poll. In the military he had a reputation for putting the most qualified people in charge, and political reformers believed this would hold true in the White House as well. As Grant became accustomed to party politics, however, he fully embraced partisanship, and many of the people he put in charge were corrupt. By the time he took office in 1869, most of the Confederate states had been restored to the Union with Republicans in control. The Fourteenth Amendment had been ratified, and the Fifteenth was making its way around the states.

Issue: The Economy
Following the Civil War, the economies of the Southern and Western states were in shambles. Many
Ulysses S. Grant
Ulysses S. Grant
Americans believed the government should redeem the war-era paper currency (known as "greenbacks") for money coined with precious metals (known as specie). The specie issue would remain an central political issue until nearly the end of the century). The funds necessary to redeem the greenbacks would have to come from increased trade tariffs, and those depended on increased and stable trade. Grant, however, employed a hands-off approach to the economy. He gave approval for the Treasury Department to reduce the national debt and to gradually resume specie currency. Six months into his first term, market speculators James Fisk and Jay Gould saw in Grant's lack of direct action an opportunity to corner the gold market (buy enough to be able to control the price for it). Their plan would only work if Grant continued to do nothing. They were relying on the influence of Grant's brother-in-law to convince the president not to sell government gold. On September 24, known as "black Friday," the price of gold soared, threatening many banks with ruin. Finally, Grant ordered Treasury Secretary George Boutwell to sell government gold reserves. With increased supply, the market recovered, but the episode undermined people's confidence in the Grant administration.

Issue: Civil Service Reform

Another major issue of the post Civil War era was reforming the Civil Service system. The term "Civil Service" was coined in 1872. It refers to any government position (in all three branches of government) that is an appointed position rather than an elected one. The system was often referred to as the "spoils system" because the winning candidate would use these positions as rewards for those who were loyal to him and helped him win the election. These people were rarely the most qualified, which resulted in massive incompetence. Civil Service reformers wanted a merit system, whereby test scores determine a person's qualifications for government positions. This would ensure that many of the employees working for the government would be good at their jobs. Grant applied his hands-off approach to this issue as well, allowing each cabinet member to set his own rules. Some experimented with examinations, while others kept traditional spoils system. The lack of a single policy set by the party leader (the president) strained the Republican party and caused a split between more traditional Republican regulars and more liberal reform-minded Republicans.

Issue: Republican Party Split
Former Confederate states were now politically controlled by the Republican Party because of the Black vote. These state governments often engaged in activist politics, increasing taxes on White-owned properties. This did not sit well with ex-Confederate Democrats. Many reform-minded Republicans also didn't like that their party was reliant on the Black vote, and they
1873 Engraving of Grant's 2nd Inauguration
1873 Engraving of Grant's 2nd Inauguration
sought better relations with the ex-Confederates (despite the racism and violence these Southerners promoted) in order to get the Republican regulars removed from state and local Southern office. Grant's refusal to set policy now angered both the regulars and the reformers. After the regulars started losing elections in the South to Republican liberals (in elections often marred by violence against Black voters), they demanded Grant do something. The regulars then expressed their frustration with Grant by rejecting his nomination a Supreme Court nomination. This prompted the reformers to push even harder for reform, and for a moment it looked like Grant was heading in that direction. Then, however, the reformers opposed a treaty that would have annexed the island of Santo Domingo (now the Dominican Republic). Grant wanted the island as a site for a naval base. Now Grant took action. He ousted reformers from his cabinet and openly sided with regulars in the Senate. Grant then embraced the spoils system, handing out positions to party regulars. By 1872 it was the regulars who supported Grant for a second term, while the Republican liberals worked with the Democrats to seek another candidate and an end to Reconstruction.
The 1872 Election
The Liberal Republican party evolved out a coalition of unlikely bedfellows, with their common purpose being the defeat of Grant. They had different views on the leading issues of the day, including the tariff, civil service, black rights, and corruption. Three days into their convention in Cincinnati, they found that they had nominated New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley, a man that many of them opposed or personally despised. Greeley's position past abolitionist activities and his present view on protectionism made him an unlikely candidate. What appealed to the Liberal Republicans was his more recent actions on behalf of sectional reconciliation. Greeley accepted the Liberal Republican nomination, in his own word, "with the distinct understanding that, if elected, I shall be president not of a party, but of the whole people, I accept your nomination, in the confident trust that the masses of our countrymen, North and South, are eager to clasp hands across the bloody chasm which has too long divided them, forgetting that they have been enemies in the joyful consciousness that they are, and must henceforth remain, brethren." In July, the Democratic Party also accepted Greeley as their candidate.

Greeley campaigned early on agrarian and labor issues, but soon found himself promoting the idea that the main problem between North and South was and always had been a lack of understanding and communication. Greeley even claimed that the Ku Klux Klan was a product of the failure of Republicans to offer a swift and sweeping amnesty to the Confederates. Greeley appealed to many Southerners, who saw him as a chance to vote anti-Grant and pro-local autonomy and white supremacy. In the upper midwest, Greeley gave more than 200 speeches in a five state swing from September 17-29, but along the way managed to offend Union veterans for their "pseudo-heroic" loyalty to Grant. He also distanced himself from black voters by snubbing a black delegation in Pennsylvania, and by suggesting that his past views of slavery and labor may have been mistaken. The Republicans responded by waving the "bloody shirt" once again (blaming the war and the assassination of Lincoln on Southerners & Democrats), and by unleashing Frederick Douglass, whose powerful oratory thrashed Greeley's Democratic allies as having murdered half a million men in an effort to destroy the government and to perpetuate slavery.

With the economy showing signs of improvement, Grant easily won a second term with 55% of the popular vote. He was somewhat aided by Thomas Nast's relentless cartoon attack on Greeley in Harper's Weekly.
1872 Election Gallery
Stereoview of Democratic Presidential candidate Horace Greeley, 1872
Stereoview of Democratic Presidential candidate Horace Greeley, 1872
c.1872 Pan-Handle Coffee Standup Advertisement comparing Grant to Washington & Lincoln
c.1872 Pan-Handle Coffee Standup Advertisement (2 views)
"All Smoke," Harper's Weekly, May 11, 1872
"All Smoke," Harper's Weekly, May 11, 1872, by Thomas Nast
"Baltimore 1861-1872," Harper's Weekly, August 3, 1872
"Baltimore 1861-1872," Harper's Weekly, August 3, 1872, by Thomas Nast
“Diogenes Has Found the Honest Man” Harper's Weekly, August 3, 1872
"Diogenes Has Found the Honest Man" Harper's Weekly, August 3, 1872, by Thomas Nast
"The White Sepulchre," Harper's Weekly, September 7, 1872
"The White Sepulchre," Harper's Weekly, September 7, 1872, by Thomas Nast
"'Let us Clasp Hand Over the Bloody Chasm'--Horace Greeley," Harper's Weekly, September 21, 1872
"'Let us Clasp Hand Over the Bloody Chasm'--Horace Greeley," Harper's Weekly, September 21, 1872
“H. G. ‘Let Us Clasp Hands over the Bloody Chasm’,” Harper's Weekly, October 19, 1872
"H. G. ‘Let Us Clasp Hands over the Bloody Chasm’," Harper's Weekly, October 19, 1872, by Thomas Nast
"The First Colored Senator and Representatives," 1872
"The First Colored Senator and Representatives," 1872, by Currier & Ives
 
 
KKK Poster
KKK Poster
Issue: Reconstruction
The reconstruction agenda was most vigorously opposed by the Ku Klux Klan, an organization created in 1866 by veterans of the Confederate Army. It focused on intimidating "carpetbaggers," "scalawags," and freed slaves. The KKK quickly adopted violent methods, reacting in a quick reaction and a decline in the Klan's membership and power beginning in 1868. In his 1869 Inaugural Address, Grant spoke of ensuring the right to vote regardless of "race, color or previous condition of servitude." He worked hard his first year in office to get the Fifteenth Amendment passed, which guaranteed the right to vote for black men. Grant's efforts sought and achieved for a short time meaningful social gains for black Americans. Grant knew that the central test of his newfound will was the suppression of Southern violence against Blacks. In 1871 he signed the Civil Rights Act, also known as the Ku Klux Klan Act, authorizing him to declare martial law. The Klan was disrupted and
Republican regulars carried most of the Southern states. After the 1872 election, however, Grant reached out to Southern Democrats, hoping for some measure of reconciliation. The differences between them, however, were too great. Most Southern Democrats were deeply racist. In particular, they were against the use of tax money to provide state services for poor blacks. In response to Grant's efforts at making peace with them, Southern Democrats formed White leagues that used violence to keep blacks from voting. Reformer Republicans, now against Grant, were upset at reports of widespread regular Republican corruption in the South, and used their power to block Grant's efforts at stopping the violence and punishing ex-Confederates who were committing the violent acts. In the meantime, Northern voters were growing weary of the use of the military to protect Southern blacks and of corruption within the Republican party. By 1875 and 1876, Southern Democrats were able to retake control of their state governments.
 
Reconstruction Images
"Would You Marry Your Daughter to a Nigger?", Harper's Weekly, July 1, 1868
"Would You Marry Your Daughter to a Nigger?", Harper's Weekly, July 1, 1868
"Would You Marry Your Daughter to a Nigger?" Harper's Weekly, July 1, 1868.
After the Civil War, the Democratic Party used the slogan, "would you marry your daugther to a nigger?" to keep their constituency in line. However, in 1868, they nearly nominated U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase, a former anti-slavery activist. During Chase's campaign, Nast put the question back to the Democrats, depicted here as a homely Irish-American woman. The other figures in the cartoon are leading Democratic politicians. On the left side (l-r): John Hoffman, New York gubernatorial candidate; John Morrissey, Tammany Hall associate and former prize-fighter; Fernando Wood (background), former New York City mayor; Manton Marble, New York World editor; Senator Thomas Hendricks of Indiana, a presidential candidate; and, James Gordon Bennett Sr., former New York Herald editor. On the right side (l-r): Horatio Seymour, former New York governor and eventual
1868 presidential nominee; Representative James Brooks of New York; Clement Vallandingham, former leader of the Peace Democrats; Senator James Doolittle of Wisconsin (background), a presidential candidate; George Pendleton, 1864 vice presidential nominee and the leading 1868 presidential candidate; Raphael Semmes (background), famed Confederate admiral; and Nathan Bedford Forrest, former Confederate general of Fort Pillow infamy.
"A Political Discussion", Harper's Weekly, November 20, 1869, by W.L. Sheppard.
From the Harper's Weekly Text: In the subjoined illustration our artist represents a characteristic group of freedmen in the streets of Richmond, engaged in the discussion of the political situation. It is by no means an unfamiliar scene. The colored men, knowing how intimately connected their race has been with the political conflicts of the last twenty years, with the origin of the rebellion, and with the problem of "reconstruction," naturally take a great interest in politics; and in some of the Southern States they hold the balance of power. It will be seen, by a reference to our picture, that there is a difference of opinion. The wood-sawyer, on the left, is doubtless a Conservative; his opponent, the white-washer, is a Republican; while the negro seated on the right is a silent auditor, ready to acquiesce in whichever opinion gains the mastery. The earnestness of the argument is shown in the countenances and in the attitude of the disputants and of their listener. The picture, considered simply as a work of art, has merits of a very high order. The action is natural, and each member of the group is given a distinct individuality. The treatment of the subject is not less happy than its selection.
"A Political Discussion," Harper's Weekly, November 20, 1869
"A Political Discussion," Harper's Weekly, November 20, 1869, by W.L. Sheppard
XVth Amendment: "Shoo Fly, Don't Bodder Me," Harper's Weekly, March 12, 1870
XVth Amendment: "Shoo Fly, Don't Bodder Me," Harper's Weekly, March 12, 1870
Left: "Shoo Fly, Don't Bodder Me," Harper's Weekly, March 12, 1870, unsigned.
The Newly ratified Fifteenth Amendment gives this black man the right to cast his vote as he shoos away the irritating "flies"--the states that voted against the amendment's ratification.

Right: "Time Works Wonders," Harper's Weekly, April 9, 1870, by Thomas Nast.
Iago. (Jeff Davis.) "For that I do suspect the lusty Moor hath leap'd into my seat: the thought whereof doth like a poisonous mineral gnaw my inwards."--Othello.
"Time Works Wonders," Harper's Weekly, April 9, 1870
"Time Works Wonders," Harper's Weekly, April 9, 1870
"The American River Ganges," Harper's Weekly, September 30, 1871
"The American River Ganges," Harper's Weekly, September 30, 1871
"The American River Ganges," Harper's Weekly, September 30, 1871, by Thomas Nast
Roman Catholic clergy are depicted as crocodiles invading America's shore to devour the nation's schoolchildren--white, black, American Indian, and Chinese.  (The white children are prominent in front, the rest are in the background.)  The public school building stands as a fortress against the threat of theocracy, but it has been bombarded and flies Old Glory upside down to signal distress. Republican newspapers strongly opposed what they saw as the growing influence of the antiquated, theocratic Roman Catholic church. Irish Catholics, predominantly Democrats, were suspected of being more loyal to the Vatican than to the nation.
"The Visit of the Ku-Klux," Harper's Weekly, February 24, 1872, by Frank Bellew
From Harper's Weekly text: The artist, on page 160, pictures an outrage of frequent occurrence in some of the most turbulent districts of the Southern States. The scene is the interior of a Negro cabin, where the little family—fearing no evil—is gathered after the work of the day is over. Suddenly the door is opened, and a member of the Ku-Klux Klan appears, with gun in hand, to take the life of the harmless old man who sits at the fire-place, and whose only "crime" is his color. It is to be hoped that under a rigorous administration of the laws these deeds of violence will soon cease forever.


Below, Left: "Lincoln The Emancipator," Harper's Weekly, April 20, 1872, by C.S. Reinhart.
"The Visit of the Ku-Klux," Harper's Weekly, February 24, 1872
"The Visit of the Ku-Klux," Harper's Weekly, February 24, 1872
"Lincoln The Emancipator," Harper's Weekly, April 20, 1872
"Lincoln The Emancipator," Harper's Weekly, April 20, 1872
Right: "The Louisiana Murders," Harper's Weekly, May 10, 1873.
The 1872 state election results in Louisiana resulted in a dispute between two Republican factions, the regular Republicans (who supported Grant for the presidency) and Liberal Republicans and Democrats (who supported Greeley for the presidency). Both groups inaugurated their own governor and formed their own legislature. A federal district judge ruled that the regular Republicans had won, and President Grant sent federal troops to enforce the ruling. Many Louisiana whites failed to comply, and instead established a shadow government and resorted to terrorism to intimidate and attack blacks and white Republicans. The worst episode of violence was the Colfax Massacre of April 13, 1873. Two whites and 70 blacks died, many killed after they had surrendered.
"The Louisiana Murders," Harper's Weekly, May 10, 1873
"The Louisiana Murders," Harper's Weekly, May 10, 1873
"Colored Rule in a Reconstructed State,"Harper's Weekly, November 7, 1874
"Colored Rule in a Reconstructed State,"Harper's Weekly, November 7, 1874
"The Commandments in South Carolina," Harper's Weekly, September 26, 1874
"The Commandments in South Carolina," Harper's Weekly, September 26, 1874
Far left: "Colored Rule in a Reconstructed State," Harper's Weekly, November 7, 1874, by Thomas Nast.

Left: "The Commandments in South Carolina," Harper's Weekly, September 26, 1874, by Thomas Nast.

Right: "The Union as it Was," Harper's Weekly, October 24, 1874, by Thomas Nast.
From the Harper's Weekly text: How easily wicked and treasonable organizations may gain the control over the peaceable and the industrious members of society has always been signally apparent at the South. A band of wild and desperate young men, maddened with whisky and torn by demoniac passions, is the governing power in Texas and Alabama, Georgia, and even Kentucky. Masked,
"The Union as it Was," Harper's Weekly, October 24, 1874
"The Union as it Was," Harper's Weekly, October 24, 1874
armed, and supplied with horses and money by the Democratic candidates for office, they ride over the country at midnight, and perpetrate unheard-of enormities. It is said, and no doubt truly, that not one in a hundred of their fearful deeds is ever told. Their enormous vices and crimes are faintly depicted in the Ku-Klux reports of 1872. Yet before these infamous associations Southern society trembles. They rob, they murder, they whip, they intimidate; yet no man, white or black, dares to denounce them. If a colored man ventures to tell of some frightful assassination which he saw in the dim midnight, he is himself dragged from the prison where he had been placed for safety and slaughtered, as happened recently in Tennessee, with horrible mockeries. If a United States official becomes conspicuous in politics, he is carried into the woods and shot, as at Coushatta. In Alabama and Louisiana the bands of young ruffians patrol the country by day as well as night, shooting down Republican voters. According to a recent estimate, there is a Republican majority of 20,000 in Louisiana, yet M’Enery and his band of assassins claim to have carried the last election, and hope to win the next by their usual outrages. Nor does any Southern paper in Georgia, or Alabama, or Texas, and scarcely in Tennessee, venture even to denounce the murderers or the violators of the laws; or if any Northern journal, roused to a proper indignation by the wrongs inflicted upon peaceable settlers and citizens in the disturbed districts, calls for the suppression and punishment of the lawless crew, it is at once placed under the ban of the secret associations. Such
"Everything Points to a Democratic Victory This Fall," Harper's Weekly, October 31, 1874
"Everything Points to a Democratic Victory This Fall," Harper's Weekly, October 31, 1874
"The Target," Harper's Weekly, February 6, 1875
"The Target," Harper's Weekly, February 6, 1875, by Thomas Nast
journals (exclaims the Austin Daily Statesman) "are more to be hated than the rattlesnake." Harper’s Weekly has been especially marked in this way, and its sale is forbidden by no unmeaning threats to the booksellers of Austin. The White Leaguers are resolved that the power of a free press shall never be felt in the South, and hope to pursue their career of crime unimpeded by the voice of humanity or reason.

Far Left: "Everything Points to a Democratic Victory This Fall," Harper's Weekly, October 31, 1874.
Contrary to the first black votes early in Reconstruction, this cartoon reflects how voting had become a physical risk for blacks in Southern states by late 1874.

Left: "The Target," Harper's Weekly, February 6, 1875, by Thomas Nast
"To Thine Own Self Be True," Harper's Weekly, April 24, 1875, by Thomas Nast.
"These Few Precepts In Thy Memory"
Beware of entrance to a quarrel; but, being in,
Bear it that the opposer may beware of thee.
Give eveyr man thine ear, but few thy voice:
Take each man's censure, but reserve they judgment.
Costly thy habit as thy purse can but,
But not express'd in fancy; rich, not gaudy:
For the apparel oft proclaims the man.

This above all,--To thine own self be true;
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man
--Shakespeare
"To Thine Own Self Be True," Harper's Weekly, April 24, 1875
"To Thine Own Self Be True," Harper's Weekly, April 24, 1875
"The 'Civil Rights Scare' is Nearly Over," Harper's Weekly, April 22, 1875
"The 'Civil Rights Scare' is Nearly Over," Harper's Weekly, April 22, 1875
Left: "The 'Civil Rights Scare' is Nearly Over," Harper's Weekly, April 22, 1875, by Thomas Nast.
The game of fox and goose.

Right: "Declaration of Equality," Harper's Weekly, August 12, 1874, by Thomas Nast.
Caption: Justice: "Five More Wanted."
In July 1876 a violent race riot in Hamburg, South Carolina resulted in the murder of six black men. Here, the personification of Justice demands the execution of those responsible in order to fairly balance the scales. Justice is surrounded by the founding documents of American democracy, while posters in the background name white terroritst groups.
"Declaration of Equality," Harper's Weekly, August 12, 1874
"Declaration of Equality," Harper's Weekly, August 12, 1874
Grant in Retirement
Grant working on his memoirs
Grant working on his memoirs
In the meantime, a series of scandals continued to undermine Grant's political capital. Then a depression in Europe spread to the US, and Grant's inability to appoint qualified men became more and more apparent. Though Grant was interested in serving a third term, his party stuck to the tradition of a two-term maximum. In 1876, the Republicans nominated Rutherford B. Hayes, and Grant's political life was over. After leaving office, Grant lent his name to a brokerage firm that ended up cheating Grant and their clients of all their money. Grant was forced to declare bankruptcy in 1884. He began writing his memoirs in the hope that the royalties would provide financial security for his family. Terminally ill with throat cancer, he struggled to finish the manuscript, finishing it only a month before his death. The book was a huge success, selling over 300,000 copies and earning his family nearly a half million dollars (in 1880's currency). Grant died on July 23, 1885.
Grant's memoirs, 1st Edition
Grant's memoirs, 1st Edition
 
Gallery of Other Grant-era Images
1875 print of lower Broadway, New York City
1875 print of lower Broadway, New York City
"Substance and Shadow,"Harper's Weekly, 1875
"Substance and Shadow,"Harper's Weekly, 1875
"I Feed You All!" 1876 Centennial Lithograph
"I Feed You All!" 1876 Centennial Lithograph
   
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Last modified July 20, 2012