Was Ulysses S. Grant a bad President?

Ulysses S. Grant was undoubtedly a great General and horseman. At the age of 5 he could stand on the back of a horse and was training them by the age of 9.  He served in the Mexican War and afterwards bounced around between jobs.

His own brother hired him as a store clerk but called him “Useless” S. Grant. But Grant’s squabbles with his brother were nothing compared to the Civil War. Which pitted brother against brother in bloody battles across the land.

After securing a victory for the North in The Civil War, Grant became a national hero and instead of riding into the sunset, the Republicans made him their candidate in 1868 and became the 18th President. He was almost instantly popular with the people and was voted in to serve two terms.

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But does being a great General make you a great President? Sure, he had the leadership skills and it was his presidency that brought the Southern states back to America. Making the country, once again, United! But office of the President was the first election Grant had run for and won and maybe it wasn’t such a great idea to start at the top.

Grant serves as the 18th President from 1869 – 1877 and belonged to the Republican party. He was heavily involved with the reconstruction that brought the Southern states back into the Union. He also saw the completion of the transcontinental railroad in 1869, connecting the East and West coast of America. He used the army to protect African-Americans in the South and stabilised the economy during the depression of 1873 when he stopped Congress from causing inflation of the money supply.

Grant was also responsible for ratifying the 15th amendment which saw the Constitution grant African-American men the right to vote by declaring that the “right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, colour, or previous condition of servitude.”

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But while Grant was a great General, he and seemed to have done a lot of good things while in office, he also made very stupid decisions. Earlier, i mentioned that the office of the presidency was the first office he was elected to, so he never really understood politics or how things worked. I suppose, in some way he still thought like a General and not a President.

Because he didn’t really know what to do or how to do it, he pretty much handed stuff to his White House staff and told them to run things and put a lot of trust in them. This was a mistake because it was his staff that ended up ruining his reputation.

His presidency is marked with numerous scandals and while he was never personally implicated, his reputation suffered. The scandals included, the Black Friday scandal which involved Jay Fisk and James Gould, The Credit Mobilier Scandal, The Whiskey Ring Scandal and The Belknap Bribery Scandal.

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The economic panic of 1873 had more people worried about losing their jobs than rebuilding the country.

The Whiskey Scandal involved a group of distillers and government officials who defrauded the government of liqueur taxes and The Belknap Bribery Scandal involved Grant’s secretary of war taking money from traders selling in Indian posts.

Grant knew a good horse, but couldn’t spot a crooked politician. In his farewell address, Grant apologised to the American people and said that his failures had been merely errors of judgement.

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He then retired to write his memoirs, smoke cigars and lose all of his money in a financial scam. Grant wasn’t always a success, but at time when the country was in crisis, he kept his cool and rode it out until the end.

Was he a bad president? No. I think he just made bad decisions. Ulysses S. Grant died on 23 July 1885 and is buried in Grant’s Tomb in New York alongside his wife and children. 

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