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Bad Presidents pp 115-131 | Cite as

The First Bad “Hidden-Hand” President: Ulysses S. Grant

  • Philip Abbott
Part of the The Evolving American Presidency Series book series (EAP)

Abstract

If Johnson was a bad president, perhaps one of the worst, was his successor any better? With just a few exceptions, Grant ranks close to the very bottom in performance. Worse perhaps, Grant has a single negative signifier attached to his presidency—corruption. Yet Grant was reelected with 56 percent of the popular vote. When he left office, Grant went on a world tour lasting two years in which he was greeted warmly by international royalty. He received significant support for a third term in 1879. His portrait appears on both the $50 bill and a postage stamp, honors accorded to few former presidents. Was Grant simply a victim of the times in which the office was in eclipse, a victim of unscrupulous advisors, or a victim, as he himself admitted, of inexperience? Or, was Grant in some way an architect of his badness? Or, was Grant really not so bad after all?

Keywords

Political Corruption Internal Revenue Service Postage Stamp Grant Administration Civil Service Examination 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 1.
    See Brooks D. Simpson, Ulysses S. Grant: Triumph over Adversity, 1822–1865 (Boston: Houghton: Mifflin, 2000), pp. 457–65, for a review of Grant’s critics and defenders.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Henry Adams, The Education of Henry Adams (New York: Modern Library, 1918), p. 260.Google Scholar
  3. 4.
    Ulysses S. Grant, “First Inaugural Address,” in John Gabriel Hunt, ed., The Inaugural Addresses of the Presidents (New York: Gramercy Books, 1995), pp. 208.Google Scholar
  4. 6.
    Jean Edward Simpson, Grant (New York: Simon and Schuster, 2001), p. 483;Google Scholar
  5. Kenneth D. Ackerman, The Gold Ring, Jim Fisk, Jay Gould and Black Friday 1689 (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1988), p. 74;Google Scholar
  6. Alan Nevins, Hamilton Fish: The Inner History of the Grant Administration (New York: Dodd, Mead, 1936), p. 284.Google Scholar
  7. 7.
    Josiah Bunting, Ulysses S. Grant (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 2004), p. 98.Google Scholar
  8. 9.
    Nark Wahlgreen Summers, The Era of Good Stealings (New York: Oxford University Press, 1993), pp. 1–92.Google Scholar
  9. 10.
    Simpson, Grant, p. 593; Joan Waugh, U. S. Grant (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2009), p. 148.Google Scholar
  10. 15.
    This defense is widely shared by contemporary supporters of Grant. See especially, Frank J. Scaturo, President Grant Reconsidered (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1998), pp. 155–58;Google Scholar
  11. Brooks D. Simpson, Reconstruction Presidents (Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1998), p. 162;Google Scholar
  12. Alvin S. Felzenberg, The Leaders We Deserve (New York: Basic Books, 2008), pp. 283–84.Google Scholar
  13. 16.
    See William B. Heseltine’s early influential biography, Ulysses S. Grant: Politician (New York: Ungar, 1935), pp. vii–viii.Google Scholar
  14. 17.
    See, Michael Korda, Ulysses S. Grant (New York: Harpercollins, 2004), pp. 124–25.Google Scholar
  15. 18.
    Albert O. Hirschman, Shifting Involvements: Private Interest and Public Action (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1982).Google Scholar
  16. 19.
    John Russell Young, Around the World with General Grant (New York: American News Company, 1879), p. 336.Google Scholar
  17. 20.
    Charles Francis Adams, Jr., Chapters of Erie and Other Essays (New York: Henry Holt, 1886), p. 135.Google Scholar
  18. 21.
    Mark Twain, note to The Gilded Age in Jack Beatty, The Age of Betrayal (New York: Knopf, 2007), p. xiv.Google Scholar
  19. 28.
    See, Eric Foner, Reconstruction: The Unfinished Revolution, 1863–1877 (New York: Harper and Row, 1983), p. 488; Scaturo, President Grant Reconsidered, p. 75.Google Scholar
  20. 36.
    Maquis Child, Eisenhower Captive Hero (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1958), p. 286.Google Scholar
  21. 40.
    Fred I. Greenstein, The Hidden Hand Presidency: Eisenhower a Leader (New York: Basic books, 1982), p. 235.Google Scholar
  22. 41.
    William S. McFeely, Grant: A Biography (New York: Norton, 1982), p. xi. Brooks Simpson challenges this interpretation in his “Butcher? Racist? An Examination of William McFeely’s Grant: A Biography,” Civil War History 33 (1987): 63–83.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Philip Abbott 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Philip Abbott

There are no affiliations available

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