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Ulysses S. Grant, Essay Example

Pages: 4

Words: 1000

Essay

Ulysses S. Grant, the 18th President of the United States, was born on April 27, 1822 in Point Pleasant, Ohio and was the eldest of six children in his family. At an early age, Grant displayed talent with horses. He attended United States Military Academy at West Point in New York where he excelled at horsemanship. Upon graduation, he joined the Fourth Infantry at the Jefferson Barracks in Missouri and was soon involved in a conflict with Mexico over disputed Texas territory. After his involvement in the Mexican War between 1846 and 1848, Grant married Julia whom he had been courting for quite some time. Grant later served with military in Detroit, New York, and the Pacific Northwest but resigned from the Army in 1854 to join his family in the Midwest. Grant took on farming but soon fell on hard times[i].

Grant was working as a clerk in his father’s leather goods shop in Galena, Illinois when the Civil War broke out in 1861, forcing Grant to restart his military career. Grant helped secure the Union’s first major victory in capturing Fort Donelson in Tennessee. He also successfully defended against a surprise Confederate attack at the Battle of Shiloh in Tennessee. Another major victory under Grant’s leadership was the capture of the city of Vicksburg, Mississippi on July 4, 1863 which broke Confederate’s hold on Mississippi. President Abraham Lincoln recognized Grant’s talent and achievements and appointed him as the commander of all the U.S. armies in March 1864 and he was bestowed upon with the rank of lieutenant general. He was the first lieutenant general of the U.S. army since the nation’s first president, George Washington[ii].

The surrender of Confederate General Robert Lee to Grant at Appomattox Court House in Virginia on April 9, 1865 marked the end of the Civil War and also made Grant a war hero[iii], paving way for a bright political future. The end of Civil War provided little relief to the nation as the nation’s charismatic President Abraham Lincoln was soon assassinated. President Lincoln’s seat was inherited by Andrew Johnson who lacked his predecessor’s leadership skills and charisma. While President Johnson wanted to bring the South back into the Union as soon as possible, he showed little interest in protecting the rights of the newly freed slaves which led to divisions in the Republican Party. Grant tried working with President Johnson in the beginning but the differences over policy approach proved too much. Grant believed the legacy of the war was being tarnished by not doing enough to protect the rights of African Americans as well as preventing former Confederates from retaking power. Grant was not initially interested in running for presidency but his popularity eventually persuaded him and he was chosen as Republican candidate at the party’s convention in 1868[iv].

When Grant became president, he decided to rise above party ranks but at the same time, he place huge premium on loyalty and helping those who had helped him. This resulted in a corrupt administration and not surprisingly, the administration would often be faced with scandals, thus, President Grant was never personally implicated in any of them[v].

While President Grant was committed to reconciliation with the South as a president, he also wanted to defend the principles for which the Civil War was fought. But it was easier said than done because racism was still alive in America and most Americans were not in favor of equal rights for African Americans. President Grant even pushed for the Fifteenth Amendment which would have given all citizens the right to vote irrespective of their racial background. In the beginning, President Grant tried to maintain law and order in the face of extremist acts against African Americans by Southern White including Ku Klux Klan in the beginning and even imposed martial law in nine counties is South Carolina in October 1871 to restore order. But later he minimized federal intervention in states affairs for political reasons as well as his belief that states should enjoy autonomy. Later, economic crisis such as the Panic of 1873 and other recessions diverted nation’s attention away from social issues to the economic issues[vi].

Grant’s reelection as President didn’t take place in ideal conditions due to difficult economic conditions, especially the panic of 1873. But he did take some good measures that could have worsened the situation such as vetoing the inflation bill which would have increased money circulation in the economy and probably inflation. In addition, the government also started withdrawing money from the economy[vii].

Even though circumstances prevented President Grant from making much progress regarding the rights of African Americans, that didn’t stop him from pushing for greater rights for Native Americans as well whom he famously called “the original occupants of this land”. But his efforts again failed due to the actions of the white settlers that continued to occupy lands of Native Americans, often with government assistance[viii].

It is clear that Grant had more successful career in the military than in politics because his personal loyalty for friends negatively affected his judgment. In addition, the circumstances proved to be too difficult for President Grant to make any real progress in the areas of social issues. President Grant was never personally implicated in any of the corrupt incidents but it all happened under his watch and only proved him as a weak administrator.

 

[i] Miller Center, Life Before the Presidency, http://millercenter.org/president/grant/essays/biography/2 (July 18, 2013)

[ii] PBS, American Experience: Ulysses S. Grant, http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/biography/grant-biography/ (July 18, 2013)

[iii] History, Ulysses S. Grant, http://www.history.com/topics/ulysses-s-grant (July 18, 2013)

[iv] Miller Center, Campaigns and Elections, http://millercenter.org/president/grant/essays/biography/3 (July 18, 2013)

[v] Miller Center, Domestic Affairs, http://millercenter.org/president/grant/essays/biography/4 (July 18, 2013)

[vi] Miller Center, Domestic Affairs 

[vii] Miller Center, Domestic Affairs

[viii] Miller Center, Domestic Affairs

 

References

 

History. Ulysses S. Grant. http://www.history.com/topics/ulysses-s-grant (accessed July 18, 2013).

Miller Center, University of Virginia. Ulysses S. Grant: Campaigns and Elections. http://millercenter.org/president/grant/essays/biography/3 (accessed July 18, 2013).

—. Ulysses S. Grant: Domestic Affairs. http://millercenter.org/president/grant/essays/biography/4 (accessed July 18, 2013).

—. Ulysses S. Grant: Life Before the Presidency. http://millercenter.org/president/grant/essays/biography/2 (accessed July 18, 2013).

PBS. Biography: Ulysses S. Grant. http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/features/biography/grant-biography/ (accessed July 18, 2013).

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