Ulysses S. Grant: Politician

By William B. Hesseltine | Go to book overview

Chapter XX Inflation or Resumption?

THE night before Jay Cooke's failure, Grant was a visitor at "Ogontz," the financier's palatial home. He had arrived to put young Jesse in a neighboring school, and the evening was spent with no mention of the impending disaster. Early on the 18th, urgent messages arrived for Cooke, but, as a perfect host, he breathed no word of his troubles to his distinguished guest, and Grant continued his journey ignorant that he had slept in a doomed house.1 On the way back to Washington the President's train met with an accident. The engineer and fireman were seriously hurt, and many passengers were bruised. At the moment of the shock the President was smoking and talking. With hardly a break in his conversation, and with a gesture scarcely perceptible, Grant grasped the back of the seat before him. His calm presence of mind saved him from injury.2 His calmness was to stand him in good stead during the coming days.

Back in Washington, Grant consulted Richardson, and the Secretary announced that his department would purchase $10,000,000 in bonds in order to put money into circulation.3 On the day after this announcement, Sunday, September 21, Grant and Richardson went to New York to study the situation. In the Fifth Avenue Hotel--a year before the headquarters of the regimented army of victorious Republicanism--President and Secretary heard the crowds of bankers, brokers, capitalists, merchants, manufacturers, and railroad men who besought them to increase the currency, declaring that unless the government came to the rescue nothing could save the country from bankruptcy and ruin.4 Yet even as these men demanded government action the conservative interests pointed out that "Boutwell's interference with Wall Street a year ago was conspicuously more advantageous to certain 'friends of the Government' among speculators . . . than to men engaged in legitimate business." This "interference" was one of the causes of the panic.5

____________________
1
Oberholtzer, Jay Cooke, II, 421-422.
2
New York Tribune, September 19, 1873.
3
Ibid., September 20, 1873.
4
Foulke, O. P. Morton, II, 317-319.
5
New York Tribune, Sept. 20, 1873.

-327-

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