Ulysses S. Grant: Politician

By William B. Hesseltine | Go to book overview

PREFACE

OVER Grant's tomb in New York's Riverside Park is inscribed the phrase---"Let Us Have Peace"--which marked the Civil War General's formal entrance into politics. It might well have been the prayer which accompanied his exit from the White House nine years later. In his two presidential terms, fierce political warfare supplanted and almost surpassed in bitterness the military conflict of the four preceding years. At the center of this political storm stood the hero of the war, but he was a hero no longer. Instead, the cold' winds of controversy dissipated his cloud of glory and revealed a man unprepared by the experience and unendowed with the native gifts necessary for a successful political career. Historians and biographers, following closely in the traditions of Grant's political opponents, have kept alive much of the partisan criticism of his enemies and have written him down as the least worthy of the Presidents.

It has been the writer's intention to re-examine Grant's political career impartially. The task has been rendered difficult by the almost complete lack of Grant manuscripts. Although there are scattered collections of documents relating to his military career, the years of his presidency are singularly barren in documentary remains. Grant himself was a poor writer and had but a limited correspondence with his political associates. Moreover, he kept but few letters, and these he returned to the senders in the years after his Presidency. Three volumes of "White House" letter books in the Library of Congress cover Grant's two administrations, and contain such an assortment of personal, official, add political material as to cause the suspicion that the correspondence from the White House during these years was extremely limited in both volume and scope. In contrast, the collected papers of Grant's opponents are voluminous. Numbering in their ranks the New England literary group and the editors of some of the nation's most widely read newspapers, Grant's enemies were more literate than his friends. Consciously or unconsciously they stuffed the ballot boxes of history against Grant, and the writer has essayed a recount.

Such a recount reveals that many of the more persistent charges of

-vii-

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