Perspective: Ulysses Was the Hero of a European Odyssey

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Byline: Chris Upton

As far as I can tell, the fate of the Regent Hotel in Leamington Spa still hangs in the balance. If those who are campaigning to save it need an illustrious name to add to their list of supporters, then I have one to hand. He's dead, unfortunately, but his stay at the town's grandest B & B undoubtedly added to its status at the time.

The man in question was none other than the President of the United States. His is a name we more generally associate with the American Civil War, but after that conflict was over he rose to the supreme office in the land. His name was Ulysses Simpson Grant.

Grant led the Union forces to victory in the Civil War and, as has often been the case, there were political rewards for military success. However, had not his two predecessors been respectively assassinated and impeached, it seems unlikely that the presidency would have fallen to him.

Having done so, Grant made a reasonable fist of the job for eight years. The Civil Rights Act, guaranteeing voting rights to all citizens irrespective of race, was probably the high point, but a number of financial scandals surrounding his close associates dogged his second term of office.

Having ruled out a third term (something today's presidents do not have the luxury of refusing) Grant chose to absent himself from America for 28 months, embarking upon a world tour. Unusually, this did not coincide with the publication of an autobiography. And thus on September 30 1877 Ulysses Grant arrived in Leamington.

General Grant stayed two nights at the Regent Hotel, the second of which was marked by a grand banquet, attended by the Mayor and other dignitaries. There were subsequent mutterings by the town councillors that they had not been invited to this, though they could hang around outside and look at the illuminations, strung up to celebrate the towns illustrious visitor. …