Ulysses S. Grant
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Ulysses S. Grant (born Hiram Ulysses Grant, 1822 – 1885) was
a cigar aficionado the 18th President of the United States (1869–77) and the second Republican to hold that office. During the Civil War, Grant rose from the rank of colonel to Commanding General of the United States Army. By the time the war ended, he was easily the most popular man in America. He trounced his opponents in the '68 election with his slogan, "Let us have peace."
However, a finanical panic shortly into his second term, and the hideous corruption of his administration, tarred his legacy. Historians with Southern sympathies like to pounce on this, since Grant's name is synonymous with southern reconstruction. The Klan wasn't too happy about that. Grant was known and feared throughout Dixie as "The Butcher" — which is rich coming from a group of people who used to conduct lynchings.
But it hurt him on the Union side, too; today, he is largely remembered as one of Lincoln's employees. (Though the same can be said of Sherman.)
The portrayal of Grant as a lout and a drunk, and of Lee as tragic hero, owes much to the Lost Cause interpretation of history. Lee himself is often portrayed as a minor tragic figure in the north: he disliked slavery, but his sense of fidelity to Virginia led him to prolong the inevitable defeat of the Confederacy, giving them a long string of improbable victories.
Close, but no cigar
The Dems failed to field a challenger to Grant and just endorsed a "Liberal Republican" ticket (Horace Greeley/Benjamin Brown). Greeley was a leftist agitator with no experience, while Brown (then-governor of Missouri) was a drunk and would give speeches where he'd forget his campaign platform. A couple days after Election Day, which Grant won handily, Greeley died suddenly. So we ended up getting 40% of all of the faithless electors in history from this election, because four different challengers (plus Greeley) to Grant ended up with some of Greeley's Electoral Votes, including: his running mate, a sitting Supreme Court Justice, the governor of Georgia, and a second-place finisher, Senator Thomas Hendricks of Indiana (easily the best electoral showing for someone who didn't even run in a primary).
Grant committed the Federal government to defending the rights of blacks in the south—using military force if necessary—and ended the removal policy on Native Americans, though he did wage minor war on the Modoc and Sioux people to protect settlers and gold, respectively.
Everyone talks about the terrible advisors around Trump, but if it means 2020 will be a repeat of 1872, at least it'll be entertaining. When your position relies on the advice of friends and family, and every single one of them is crooked, bad stuff happens. Nothing ever stuck to Grant personally. His biggest fault was a wall of silence; this worked well in combat but not in political office.
Good men don't necessarily make good presidents.
Grant went broke on account of a Ponzi-scheme manager who befriended his son. Having off-loaded the last of his memorabilia to pay off debts, and nearing death (palate cancer, ouch), Grant spent his final months polishing off The Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant. It covered Grant's presidency as well as his time as a soldier, first on the West Coast and later in the Civil War. Grant tried to run for a non-consecutive third term, but the Republican Party blocked the idea - partly due to Washington's precedent and partly because they feared Grant might endanger the "let the South do with its blacks as they please and we won't get problems with them"-consensus then dominating Republican politics.
Grant first featured on U.S. currency in 1886, just one year after his death.
- Mark Twain — The original publisher knew Grant was broke, and dying, and offered him 15% of the royalties. Grant had to reject the paltry offer. When Twain got involved, Twain offered him 75% of the royalties.
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*Ran for VP on the "National Union" ticket together with Lincoln but was otherwise a lifelong Democrat