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crowley_greene
10-30-2007, 01:09 AM
Over the past couple of years of reading I have curiously begun to become a sort of "Grant fan" (heaven help me if some of my compatriots in the local SCV camp find that out). Despite some blunders and shortcomings, I've developed a sense of respect for him.

At this point though, I'm not well-read enough on Grant's life to fully understand why he is regarded by so many historians as a failure of a U.S. president. Can some of you enlighten me with your thoughts on why he didn't fare so well in that office?

Murray Therrell

jthlmnn
10-30-2007, 10:45 AM
My opinion: nothing more or less.

One word-SCANDAL. From "Black Friday" to the "Whiskey Ring" to the "Sanborn Incident" to the "Credit Mobilier" and others, scandal plagued the Grant administration. The actual scandals were bad enough, leaving the impression that Grant hade made poor choices in selecting/appointing cabinet members, bureaucrats etc. This was exacerbated by what many have seen as Grant's reluctance to punish the perpetrators who were close to him. The political fallout of all this was a return of the Democratic party to congressional power. This hampered Grant's ability to pass legislation. The combination of scandal and perceived legislative impotence has led many historians to a low opinion of Grant's presidency.

In your readings you will find, if you haven't already, that more recent works are discarding the broad brush. The successes are being examined, along with the failures. Its a complex and fascinating time, filled with a full spectrum of colorful characters. I hope you enjoy delving into it to greater depth.

7thMDYankee
10-30-2007, 11:29 AM
What is your opinion of Grant's support for the annexation of the Domincan Republic? How did that play in the press? Congress? Public? Just curious if this early example of American imperialism may play into historians' perceptions of Grant.

[I must confess my off-hand knowledge of the period regarding matters other than Reconstruction/western frontier are lacking. I am hoping you can shed some fresh light on the topic for me, or at least direct me to places I might find out for myself. Thanks ahead of time!]

jthlmnn
11-01-2007, 10:48 AM
What is your opinion of Grant's support for the annexation of the Domincan Republic? How did that play in the press? Congress? Public? Just curious if this early example of American imperialism may play into historians' perceptions of Grant.

[I must confess my off-hand knowledge of the period regarding matters other than Reconstruction/western frontier are lacking. I am hoping you can shed some fresh light on the topic for me, or at least direct me to places I might find out for myself. Thanks ahead of time!]

The proposal to annex Santo Domingo is an interesting topic. While it initially appears unrelated to ACW/Reconstruction, Grant's support of the annexation was based, in part, on the effect he believed it would have in the South. Aside from providing a naval base that would help cover the Carribean and the natural resources available for the U.S. market, Grant saw it as a safe place for recently freed slaves to go that would be U.S. territory, but where they were much less likely to be exposed to racial biases/violence.
Grant also expected/hoped that so many freedmen would leave the South, that the resulting labor shortage would boost their economic value and their social value would improve, as well. (Fight bigotry with economics, so to speak). Another anticipated side-effect would be the pressure that would result on Cuba to eliminate slavery.

There were a couple of difficulties and a problem with these noble thoughts. The major difficulty was the combination of existing American bigotry and the racial composition of Santo Domingo: the place wasn't "white" enough and it couldn't be made so, because the climate was conducive to white settlement.
Another difficulty, according some writers, was that Santo Domingo was run by a dictator and two rather sleazy expatriate American entrepeneurs. Whether the place would actually have been a good one for African-Americans to move to is, in their opinion, highly debatable. A problem that arose was controversy as whether Grant had overstepped the bounds of presidential powers in extending U.S. protection to Santo Domingo. Grant lost that battle.

In any case, Grant couldn't pull it off, and that is the source of some critiques. More recent critiques see the racial component as merely another attempt to move "the problem", rather than deal with the issue of bigotry at home. Still another perspective sees the episode as an early attempt at imperialism, which also garners its share of negative writings.

I'll note that the opinions above do imply unanimity of historical judgement. It was a complex affair, with complex motivations coming into play. A wide spectrum of opinion exists on the merits of the proposal. In the end, that's what makes it so much fun to study.

Regular3
11-02-2007, 12:13 PM
Over the past couple of years of reading I have curiously begun to become a sort of "Grant fan" (heaven help me if some of my compatriots in the local SCV camp find that out).Murray TherrellWell, that would put you in company with Longstreet :wink:

The scandals and failures of Grant's administration seem to be well enough known; I'd like to see what some consider examples of sucesses during his 8 years in office.

huntdaw
11-02-2007, 05:35 PM
The man couldn't have been all that bad - he didn't like the media.

sbl
11-02-2007, 07:14 PM
Sure you're not thinking of Sherman?

huntdaw
11-03-2007, 11:30 AM
Him too. If I remember correctly though, they both had a healthy disdain for journalists.

Southern Cal
11-03-2007, 04:45 PM
Have you read Grant's Autobiograhy that Mark Twain helped publish? Well worth reading.

reb64
11-03-2007, 05:52 PM
although not cared much by the voters probably. I have a low opinion of him for allowing or turning a blind eye on the wholesale rape, murder , robbery and displacement of the native americans. at least they got that murderous woman and child killer war starting custer

MStuart
11-03-2007, 11:37 PM
although not cared much by the voters probably. I have a low opinion of him for allowing or turning a blind eye on the wholesale rape, murder , robbery and displacement of the native americans. at least they got that murderous woman and child killer war starting custer

Robert

You really have a knack for bringing an interesting thread to a screeching halt.

Mark

Frenchie
11-04-2007, 12:25 AM
http://i106.photobucket.com/albums/m274/Darkfold_2006/rotf.gif

Southern Cal
11-05-2007, 12:56 AM
Grant was president during most of the period of greatest violence between whites moving wholesale, westwards, and Indians resisting being displaced. Under these circumstances, there was only so much a President could do and did any other President do much better? As President, Grant tried to be fair with Native Americans, appointing this "Red Skin" to deal with the "Indian Problem".


http://www.nativeamericans.com/ElySamuelParker.htm

tompritchett
11-05-2007, 01:06 PM
As President, Grant tried to be fair with Native Americans, appointing this "Red Skin" to deal with the "Indian Problem".

Unfortunately, Grant's sentiments towards the American Indians were not shared by his most senior two Army generals, Sherman and Sheridan. It was Sherman and not senior leaders in Nazi Germany who first used to the term "Final Solution" to describe the desire to wipe a whole race of people out of existence.

crowley_greene
11-05-2007, 01:25 PM
Grant was president during most of the period of greatest violence between whites moving wholesale, westwards, and Indians resisting being displaced. Under these circumstances, there was only so much a President could do and did any other President do much better?

So would it be fair to say that part of Grant's problem(s) had to do with the state of the nation in the time that he happened to be elected president? Perhaps he might have not have suffered such barbs if he had been elected, say, during a "more placid" term like a John Tyler served (1841-1845)?

It almost seems as though hardly any chief executive would have escaped a negative historical record completely unscathed in the years 1869-1877. Interestingly, he did get elected for a second term.

Murray Therrell

jthlmnn
11-05-2007, 09:08 PM
Grant is generally credited with a good record in the area of civil rights. He might have been even more effective in counteracting the KKK if he'd had the emergency powers that Lincoln was able to work with. Trouble was, most folks up North didn't much care.

In foreign policy, the Treaty of Washington (1871) is considered a success, along with the settlement of the Liberian-Grebo War (1876).

It was also during the Grant administration that Christmas was made a federal holiday.

Southern Cal
11-06-2007, 02:59 AM
When a ship runs aground, it doesn't matter who actually plotted it's course or was standing at the helm at the time. The Captain always gets the blame becasue he is ultimately responsible for his ship. It is much the same with Grant.

Compare Grant's attitude towards the Indians versus President Jackson, for example. Grant might have run aground concerning American Indian policy, but Jackson aimed his ship of state directly at the Indians: Creeks, Seminoles, Cherokees, for example.

Longstreet
11-06-2007, 02:23 PM
My Grandfather was one of his Attorney Generals. Grant was very supportive of his role in rounding up the Klan, especially in up state South Carolina. Amos T. Akerman served in the Georgia State Guard from Elbert county and became the first confederate to serve in the executive branch after the war. He resigned over a dispute related to railroad lands. They remained close friends. Grant is certainly a president that will benefit from a little revisionism.

Mark Akerman