Ulysses S. Grant: Politician

By William B. Hesseltine | Go to book overview

Chapter XXVI A Political Resurrection

FROM the windows of Fish's Washington home, ex-President Grant watched the first acts of a new Administration. It was an Administration with which he had little sympathy. Eight years before, he had come into office with the confidence of the people behind him. In the first month of his presidency he had been attacked by a combination of "reformers" and Democrats, representing as he thought an insignificant minority of the American people. Taking exception to the President's request for repeal of the Tenure of Office act, Sumner, Schurz, and a handful of partisans raised the cry of reform and defeated Grant's purpose of reforming the public service by wholesale dismissals. Shortly thereafter these men in the much-abused name of Democracy, had defeated the President's single-handed adventure into imperialism. Forced by this opposition to become a partisan, Grant had distributed the Federal patronage to those Congressmen upon whose loyalty he could depend. In 1872, Republican soreheads, "reformers," and "moderates," had deserted the party and formed an incongruous alliance with the Democrats. Defeated in their treasonable acts by the political machine which Grant's use of the patronage had built up, these "Liberal" Republicans had, four years later, secured the nomination of Rutherford B. Hayes. When the election was over, and Hayes had been rejected by a majority of the American voters, the men who had cried aloud for reform had made corrupt bargains, promised offices, and sold the South to the Southern Bourbons in order to place their reforming candidate in the White House. That they were successful was a tribute to the public confidence in Grant's honesty and integrity, but the result could hardly have been satisfactory to the former President.

Grant was glad to be relieved from the cares of the presidency. Behind the imperturbability which had deceived even penetrating observers into thinking that he was unemotional or even stupid was the most sensitive man who was ever President of the United States. The professional politicians, from whose ranks all but three of his predecessors had come, were usually trained in the law, and the courts and hustings had worn their emotions callous. But Grant had had no experience in

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