|Presidency of Ulysses S. Grant|
|March 4, 1869 - March 4, 1877|
|Preceded by||A. Johnson presidency|
|Succeeded by||Hayes presidency|
|Seat||White House, Washington, D.C.|
The presidency of Ulysses S. Grant began on March 4, 1869, when he was inaugurated as the 18th President of the United States, and ended on March 4, 1877. Grant took office in the aftermath of the Civil War, and he presided over much of the Reconstruction Era. A Republican, Grant became president after defeating Democrat Horatio Seymour in the 1868 presidential election. He was reelected in 1872 in a landslide victory, overcoming a split in the Republican Party that resulted in the formation of the Liberal Republicans, which nominated Horace Greeley to oppose him. He was succeeded as president by Republican Rutherford B. Hayes after the contested 1876 presidential election.
Reconstruction after the Civil War took precedence during Grant's first term of office. By 1870, all former Confederate states had been readmitted into the United States and were represented in Congress, but the federal government remained active in the South to protect the rights of former slaves. Congress crafted three powerful Enforcement Acts to suppress violence by the insurgent Ku Klux Klan, and established the Department of Justice and the Office of Solicitor General. These actions bolstered the Grant Administration's ability to carry out and enforce federal laws, particularly those that protected the civil and political rights of African Americans. The new Justice Department prosecuted thousands of Ku Klux Klan members under the strict new laws, and Grant signed the Second Enforcement Act of 1871 into law, which made the KKK an illegal terrorist organization. Grant also supported passage of the Fifteenth Amendment (ratified on February 3, 1870, the third and last of the Reconstruction Amendments), which prohibits the federal and state governments from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen's "race, color, or previous condition of servitude". Rather than develop a cadre of trustworthy political advisers, Grant was self-reliant in choosing his cabinet. He relied heavily on former Army associates, who had a thin understanding of politics and a weak sense of civilian ethics. Numerous scandals plagued his administration, including allegations of bribery, fraud, and cronyism. In 1872, Grant signed into law an Act of Congress that established Yellowstone National Park, the nation's first National Park.
At the beginning of Grant's second term, the nation was prosperous, the national debt, government spending, tariffs, and the federal workforce were reduced, and there was an increase in tax revenues. Congress established a de facto deflationary gold standard that reduced the number of greenbacks in the national economy. However, the Panic of 1873 rocked the nation and destroyed much of the economic advancements made in Grant's first term. The Panic caused a severe nationwide economic depression and turned public opinion against Grant. As a result, Democrats regained control of the House in the 1874 elections. Corruption scandals escalated, though reformers appointed by Grant were able to clean up some federal departments. Most notably, Secretary of the Treasury Benjamin Bristow prosecuted the Whiskey Ring, leading to the indictment of Grant's personal secretary, Orville E. Babcock. Secretary of War William W. Belknap resigned in disgrace in February 1876 after he was impeached by the House for taking kickbacks. Grant continued to support Reconstruction, and he signed the Civil Rights Act of 1875, which banned discrimination in public accommodations. However, by the end of Grant's presidency, white Southern Democrats, called Redeemers by their supporters, had regained political control of state governments, often through killings and other physical violence, fraud, and the suppression of black voters.
The United States was at peace with the world throughout Grant's eight years in office, but his handling of foreign policy was uneven. Tensions with Native American tribes in the West continued. Under the talented Secretary of State Hamilton Fish, the Treaty of Washington restored relations with Britain and resolved the contentious Alabama Claims, while the Virginius Affair with Spain was settled peacefully. Grant attempted to annex the Caribbean island of Santo Domingo, but the annexation was blocked by the Senate.
With the completion of the Transcontinental Railroad in 1869, the West was wide open to expansionism that sometimes was challenged by hostile Native Americans. Grant pursued a "peace policy" with Native Americans, but persistent western expansion by settlers made conflict difficult to avoid. Grant presided over the Great Sioux War of 1876 and other clashes with the Native Americans. Grant's presidency was long denounced by historians as the most corrupt in U.S. history. His presidential reputation has gradually risen over the past few decades among historians who have noted that Grant advanced Indian policy, African American civil rights, and Civil Service reform.
Grant's rise in political popularity among Republicans was based on his military service during the Civil War, his successful generalship that defeated Robert E. Lee, and his break from President Andrew Johnson over the Tenure of Office Act during Reconstruction while serving as both Commanding General of the Army and his temporary appointment by Johnson as Secretary of War. When Grant handed over the office to Edwin Stanton, whom Johnson had suspended, the Republicans grew confident that Grant was their man for presidential office. Grant's distaste for Johnson's policies brought him to the point where he believed it was his duty to accept the Republican presidential candidacy. Grant was unchallenged for the 1868 Republican presidential nomination, and was nominated unopposed on the first ballot at the party's May 20-21, national convention in Chicago. House Speaker Schuyler Colfax was chosen for Vice President. The Republican platform supported black suffrage in the South as part of the passage to full citizenship for former slaves. It agreed to let northern states decide individually whether to enfranchise blacks. It opposed using greenbacks to redeem U.S. bonds, encouraged immigration, endorsed full rights for naturalized citizens, and favored radical reconstruction as distinct from the more lenient policy espoused by President Andrew Johnson.
I have been forced into it in spite of myself. I could not back down without, as it seems to me, leaving the contest for power for the next four years between mere trading politicians, the elevation of whom, no matter which party won, would lose to us, largely, the results of the costly war which we have gone through.
Grant's acceptance letter called out, "Let us have peace", which captured the imagination of the American people. Historian Brooks Simpson says these four simple words expressed the "innermost desires of many Americans," explaining:
They promised an end to a long, tiring, bitter conflict. They signaled a halt to the petty partisan bickering and carping that at times had overwhelmed a need for dispassionate, calm statesmanship. They offered reconciliation to those white Southerners who are willing to accept defeat and its consequences and wanted to work for reunion. At the same time, they warned that violence would not be tolerated. Finally, with peace came prosperity. Sectional harmony would be wise, wonderful, and profitable.
There were two main divisive issues in 1868. The first was the continued Reconstruction of the South. The Democrats advocated allowing former Confederate soldiers to hold elective offices, and the Republicans endorsed the proposed Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution which allowed African Americans to vote. The other controversial issue concerned the redemption of war bonds either in gold or paper money known as greenbacks. The Democrats wanted to redeem the bonds with $100,000,000 in greenbacks and the rest with gold. The greenbacks were known as "cheap money" and would be inflationary. The Republicans wanted to pay the redemption of war bonds only with gold, a position attractive to investors and bankers.
Democrats, ignoring the politically damaged incumbent president, Andrew Johnson, who had returned to the party, nominated Horatio Seymour for the presidency, along with Francis P. Blair as his running mate. Seymour was a wealthy conservative who was criticized by the GOP for weakness during the war and favoring the anti-war Copperheads. The campaigning was nasty, as the Republicans waved the "bloody shirt" of treason against the Democrats-as-Copperheads. Neither candidate actively campaigned, as was the custom at the time. Grant issued a public apology to Jewish voters for his 1862 General Order No. 11 that banned Jewish merchants from his zone during the Civil War because of alleged profiteering. Grant won an overwhelming Electoral College victory, receiving 214 votes to Seymour's 80. Grant also received 52.7 percent of the popular vote nationwide. His margin of victory was enhanced by the fact that six southern states were controlled by Republicans and many ex-Confederates were still prevented from voting.
On March 4, 1869, Grant was sworn in as the eighteenth President of the United States by Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase. At age forty-six, he was the youngest president yet elected. In his inaugural address, Grant urged the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment and said he would approach Reconstruction "calmly, without prejudice, hate or sectional pride." He also recommended the "proper treatment" of Native Americans be studied, advocating their civilization and eventual citizenship. Newspaper editorials praised Grant's speech: The New York Times favorably compared it to Lincoln's second inaugural address and praised his cabinet selections. Others, however, were skeptical that his choices were based on loyalty rather than competence.
|The Grant Cabinet|
|President||Ulysses S. Grant||1869-1877|
|Vice President||Schuyler Colfax||1869-1873|
|Secretary of State||Elihu B. Washburne||1869|
|Secretary of Treasury||George S. Boutwell||1869-1873|
|William A. Richardson||1873-1874|
|Benjamin H. Bristow||1874-1876|
|Lot M. Morrill||1876-1877|
|Secretary of War||John M. Schofield[i]||1869|
|John A. Rawlins||1869|
|William W. Belknap||1869-1876|
|J. Donald Cameron||1876-1877|
|Attorney General||Ebenezer R. Hoar||1869-1870|
|Amos T. Akerman||1870-1871|
|George H. Williams||1871-1875|
|Postmaster General||John A. J. Creswell||1869-1874|
|James W. Marshall||1874|
|James N. Tyner||1876-1877|
|Secretary of the Navy||Adolph E. Borie||1869|
|George M. Robeson||1869-1877|
|Secretary of the Interior||Jacob D. Cox||1869-1870|
Although some historians view Grant's cabinet as being mediocre, according to biographers Jean Edward Smith and Ron Chernow, it had distinguished members, including former statesmen. Without senatorial consultation, Grant's unconventional cabinet choices sparked both criticism and approval. In his effort to create national harmony, he purposely avoided choosing Republican Party leaders, selecting several non-politicians. Grant chose two close friends for important posts: Elihu B. Washburne for Secretary of State and John A. Rawlins as Secretary of War. Washburne was replaced by conservative New York statesman Hamilton Fish. Rawlins died in office after serving only a few months, replaced by William W. Belknap of Iowa. For Treasury, he appointed wealthy New York merchant Alexander T. Stewart, who was found ineligible and replaced by Representative George S. Boutwell, a Massachusetts Radical Republican. Philadelphia businessman Adolph E. Borie was appointed Secretary of Navy, who was reluctant to accept, soon resigned due to poor health and was replaced by a relative unknown, George M. Robeson, a former brigadier general. Grant's nomination of James Longstreet, a former Confederate general, to the position of Surveyor of customs of the port of New Orleans, was met with general amazement, and was largely seen as a genuine effort to unite the North and South. Other cabinet appointments included former major general and Ohio Governor Jacob D. Cox for Secretary of the Interior, former Senator from Maryland John Creswell as Postmaster General, and Ebenezer Rockwood Hoar (Attorney General)--were well received.
Grant and Sumner were often at odds with each other on matters of foreign policy and political patronage. Sumner followed his own foreign policy and detested Grant's practice of nepotism in making political appointments. Historian, Mary L. Hinsdale, described the Grant Administration as "a most extraordinary array of departures from the normal course" and a "military" rule, in close connection with a select Republican Senatorial group." Grant was criticized for appointing many family members or friends considered unqualified to highly sought government posts.
In March 1869, President Grant made it known he desired the Tenure of Office Act repealed, stating it was a "stride toward a revolution in our free system". The Tenure of Office Act was passed by Congress in 1867, sponsored by Radical Republicans, to curb the power of the President Andrew Johnson in making government office appointments. The controversial law had been invoked during the impeachment trial of Johnson in 1868. On March 5, 1869, a bill was brought before Congress to repeal the act, but Senator Charles Sumner was opposed, unwilling to give Grant a free hand in making appointments. Grant, to bolster the repeal effort, declined to make any new appointments except for vacancies, until the law was overturned, thus, agitating political office seekers to pressure Congress to repeal the law. Under national pressure for governmental reform, a compromise was reached and a new bill was passed that allowed the President to have complete control over removing his own cabinet, however, government appointees needed the approval of Congress within a thirty-day period. Grant, who did not desire a party split over the matter, signed the bill; afterward, he received criticism for not getting a full repeal of the law. The unpopular measure was completely repealed in 1887.
During Reconstruction, Freedmen (freed slaves), were given the vote by Congress and became active in state politics; fourteen were elected to Congress. In state government they were never governor but did become lieutenant governors or secretaries of state. They formed the voting base of the Republican party along with some local whites (called "Scalawags") and new arrivals from the North (called "Carpetbaggers".) Most Southern whites opposed the Republicans; they called themselves "Conservatives" or "Redeemers". Grant repeatedly took a role in state affairs; for example on December 24, 1869, he established federal military rule in Georgia and restored black legislators who had been expelled from the state legislature.
Most historians in the 21st century consider Reconstruction ended in failure and the north had given up on protecting the civil rights of African Americans. However, historian Mark Summers in 2014 has argued that:
Other matters during Reconstruction concerned polygamy, women's suffrage, anti-obscenity, and federal establishment of Holidays.
According to biographer, William S. McFeely, Grant and many in the north believed the American Civil War extended democracy to the African American freedmen. Grant worked to ensure ratification of the pending constitutional amendment approved by Congress and sent to the states during the last days of the Johnson administration, that would prohibit the federal and state governments from denying a citizen the right to vote based on that citizen's "race, color, or previous condition of servitude". On February 3, 1870, the amendment reached requisite number of state ratifications (then 27) and was certified as the Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Grant hailed its ratification as "a measure of grander importance than any other one act of the kind from the foundation of our free government to the present day". Many in the south, however, were determined that the African American males' right to vote would be unenforceable.
On June 22, 1870, Grant signed a bill into law passed by Congress that created the Department of Justice and to aid the Attorney General, the Office of Solicitor General. Grant appointed Amos T. Akerman as Attorney General and Benjamin H. Bristow as America's first Solicitor General. Both Akerman and Bristow used the Department of Justice to vigorously prosecute Ku Klux Klan members in the early 1870s. In the first few years of Grant's first term in office, there were 1000 indictments against Klan members with over 550 convictions from the Department of Justice. By 1871, there were 3000 indictments and 600 convictions with most only serving brief sentences while the ringleaders were imprisoned for up to five years in the federal penitentiary in Albany, New York. The result was a dramatic decrease in violence in the South. Akerman gave credit to Grant and told a friend that no one was "better" or "stronger" than Grant when it came to prosecuting terrorists. Akerman's successor, George H. Williams, in December 1871, continued to prosecute the Klan throughout 1872 until the Spring of 1873 during Grant's second term in office. William's clemency and moratorium on Klan prosecutions was due in part that the Justice Department, having been inundated by Klan outrage cases, did not have the effective manpower to continue the prosecutions.
On June 28, 1870, Grant approved and signed legislation that made Christmas, or December 25, a legal public Holiday within Washington D.C. Historian Ron White said this was done by Grant because of his passion to unify the nation. During the early 19th Century in the United States, Christmas became more of a Church family centered activity. Other Holidays, included in the law within Washington D.C., were New Year, Fourth of July, and Thanksgiving. The law affected 5,300 federal employees working in the District of Columbia, the nation's capital. The legislation was meant to adapt to similar laws in states surrounding Washington D.C. and "in every State of the Union." 
On July 14, 1870, Grant signed into law the Naturalization Act of 1870 that allowed persons of African descent to become citizens of the United States. This revised an earlier law, the Naturalization Act of 1790 that only allowed white persons of good moral character to become U.S. citizens. The law also prosecuted persons who used fictitious names, misrepresentations, or identities of deceased individuals when applying for citizenship.
To add enforcement to the 15th Amendment, Congress passed an act that guaranteed the protection of voting rights of African Americans; Grant signed the bill, known as the Force Act of 1870 into law on May 31, 1870. This law was designed to keep the Redeemers from attacking or threatening African Americans. This act placed severe penalties on persons who used intimidation, bribery, or physical assault to prevent citizens from voting and placed elections under Federal jurisdiction.
On January 13, 1871, Grant submitted to Congress a report on violent acts committed by the Ku Klux Klan in the South. On March 20, Grant told a reluctant Congress the situation in the South was dire and federal legislation was needed that would "secure life, liberty, and property, and the enforcement of law, in all parts of the United States." Grant stated that the U.S. mail and the collection of revenue was in jeopardy. Congress investigated the Klan's activities and eventually passed the Force Act of 1871 to allow prosecution of the Klan. This Act, also known as the "Ku Klux Klan Act" and written by Representative Benjamin Butler, was passed by Congress to specifically go after local units of the Ku Klux Klan. Although sensitive to charges of establishing a military dictatorship, Grant signed the bill into law on April 20, 1871, after being convinced by Secretary of Treasury, George Boutwell, that federal protection was warranted, having cited documented atrocities against the Freedmen. This law allowed the President to suspend habeas corpus on "armed combinations" and conspiracies by the Klan. The Act also empowered the president "to arrest and break up disguised night marauders". The actions of the Klan were defined as high crimes and acts of rebellion against the United States.
The Ku Klux Klan consisted of local secret organizations formed to violently oppose Republican rule during Reconstruction; there was no organization above the local level. Wearing white hoods to hide their identity the Klan would attack and threaten Republicans. The Klan was strong in South Carolina between 1868 and 1870; South Carolina Governor Robert K. Scott, who was mired in corruption charges, allowed the Klan to rise to power. Grant, who was fed up with their violent tactics, ordered the Ku Klux Klan to disperse from South Carolina and lay down their arms under the authority of the Enforcement Acts on October 12, 1871. There was no response, and so on October 17, 1871, Grant issued a suspension of habeas corpus in all the 9 counties in South Carolina. Grant ordered federal troops in the state who then captured the Klan; who were vigorously prosecuted by Att. Gen. Akerman and Sol. Gen. Bristow. With the Klan destroyed other white supremacist groups would emerge, including the White League and the Red Shirts.
Texas was readmitted into the Union on March 30, 1870, Mississippi was readmitted February 23, 1870, and Virginia on January 26, 1870. Georgia became the last Confederate state to be readmitted into the Union on July 15, 1870. All members of the House of Representatives and Senate were seated from the 10 Confederate states who seceded. Technically, the United States was again a united country.
To ease tensions, Grant signed the Amnesty Act of 1872 on May 23, 1872, that gave amnesty to former Confederates. This act allowed most former Confederates, who before the war had taken an oath to uphold the Constitution of the United States, to hold elected public office. Only 500 former Confederates remained unpardonable and therefore forbidden to hold elected public office.
While Grant advocated that African Americans enter the West Point Academy, he initially failed in 1870 and 1871 to protect the first African American West Point Academy cadet, James Webster Smith, from racist hazing by other cadets. This lack of protection was influenced by Grant's son, then West Point cadet Frederick Dent Grant, who participated in the hazing against Smith. Maj. Gen. Thomas H. Ruger, however, was appointed Superintendent of West Point in 1871, reformed the Academy; having reduced the amount of hazing of cadets by 1873 and made strong efforts to eradicate the "discreditable" practice. In 1871, other African Americans eventually followed Smith's entrance into West Point and Henry O. Flipper, who was admitted to the Academy in 1873, became the first to graduate from the Academy in 1877. In 1874, Smith was forced out of the Academy due to having failed an unconventional private test, in defiance of traditional West Point practice, administrated by Prof. Peter S. Michie. Smith was finally commissioned an officer by West Point in 1997, one hundred and twenty-three years later.
In 1862, during the American Civil War President Lincoln signed into law the Morrill bill that outlawed polygamy in all U.S. Territories. Mormons who practiced polygamy in Utah, for the most part, resisted the Morrill law and the territorial governor.:301 During the 1868 election, Grant had mentioned he would enforce the law against polygamy. Tensions began as early as 1870, when Mormons in Ogden, Utah began to arm themselves and practice military drilling. By the Fourth of July, 1871 Mormon militia in Salt Lake City, Utah were on the verge of fighting territorial troops, however, more level heads prevailed and violence was averted. Grant, however, who believed Utah was in a state of rebellion was determined to arrest those who practiced polygamy outlawed under the Morrill Act. In October 1871 hundreds of Mormons were rounded up by U.S. marshals, put in a prison camp, arrested, and put on trial for polygamy. One convicted polygamist received a $500 fine and 3 years in prison under hard labor. On November 20, 1871, Mormon leader Brigham Young, in ill health, had been charged with polygamy. Young's attorney stated that Young had no intention to flee the court. Other persons during the polygamy shut down were charged with murder or intent to kill. The Morrill Act, however, proved hard to enforce since proof of marriage was required for conviction.:294 On December 4, 1871, Grant stated that polygamists in Utah were "a remnant of barbarism, repugnant to civilization, to decency, and to the laws of the United States."
In March 1873, anti-obscenity moralists, led by the YMCA's Anthony Comstock, easily secured passage of the Comstock Act which made it a federal crime to mail articles "for any indecent or immoral use". Grant signed the bill after he was assured that Comstock would personally enforce it. Comstock went on to become a special agent of the Post Office appointed by Secretary James Cresswell. Comstock prosecuted pornographers, imprisoned abortionists, banned nude art, stopped the mailing of information about contraception, and tried to ban what he considered bad books.
During Grant's presidency the early Women's suffrage movement led by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton gained national attention. Anthony lobbied for female suffrage, equal gender pay, and protection of property for women who resided in Washington D.C. In April 1869, Grant signed into law the protection of married women's property from their husbands' debts and the ability for women to sue in court in Washington D.C. In March 1870 Representative Samuel M. Arnell introduced a bill, coauthored by suffragist Bennette Lockwood, that would give women federal workers equal pay for equal work. Two years later Grant signed a modified Senate version of the Arnell Bill into law. The law required that all federal female clerks would be paid the fully compensated salary, however, lower tiered female clerks were exempted. The law increased women's clerk salaries from 4% to 20% during the 1870s, however, the culture of patronage and patriarchy continued. To placate the burgeoning suffragist movement, the Republicans' platform included that women's rights should be treated with "respectful consideration", while Grant advocated equal rights for all citizens.
Grant's 1868 campaign slogan, "Let us have peace," defined his policy toward reconstructing the South and opening a new era in relations with the western Indian tribes.
In a major address, Grant stated: "The building of rail-roads and the access thereby given to all the agricultural and mineral regions of the country is rapidly bringing civilized settlements into contact with all the tribes of Indians. No matter what ought to be the relations between such settlements and the aborigines, the fact is they do not get on together, and one or the other has to give way in the end. A system which looks to the extinction of a race is too abhorrent for a Nation to indulge in without entailing upon the wrath of all Christendom, and without engendering in the Citizen a disregard for human life, and the rights of others, dangerous to society. I see no remedy for this except in placing all the Indians on large reservations...and giving them absolute protection there.":133
The goal of his "peace policy" was to minimize military conflict with the Indians, looking forward to "any course toward them which tends to their civilization and ultimate citizenship". Indians were to stay on reservations where they would receive government subsidies and training supervised by religious denominations. Indians were no longer allowed to engage in raids or send war parties off the reservations; the Army's job was to force them back. The goal was to assimilate the Indians into American society; any Indian could leave the reservation at any time and join the larger society, and have full citizenship. The Indians on reservations were made U.S. citizens in 1924.:133-35
Grant's Peace Policy was a sharp reversal of federal policy toward Native Americans. "Wars of extermination ... are demoralizing and wicked.", he told Congress in his second Inaugural Address of 1873. The president lobbied, though not always successfully, to preserve Native American lands from encroachment by the westward advance of pioneers. The economic forces of western expansionism led to conflicts between Native Americans, settlers, and the U.S. military. Native Americans were increasingly forced to live on reservations.
In 1869, Grant appointed his aide General Ely S. Parker, a Seneca Indian, as the first Native American Commissioner of Indian Affairs. During Parker's first year in office, the number of Indian Wars per year dropped by 43 from 101 to 58. Chief of the Oglala Sioux Red Cloud wanted to meet Grant, after learning that Parker was appointed Indian Commissioner. Red Cloud, along with chief of the Brulé Sioux Spotted Tail, came to Washington, D.C. by train and met with Parker and Grant in 1870. Grant held no personal animosity towards Native Americans and personally treated them with dignity. When Red Cloud and Spotted Tail first met Grant at the White House on May 7, 1870, they were given a bountiful dinner and entertainment equal to what was shown to a young Prince Arthur at a White House visit from Britain in 1869. At their second meeting on May 8, Red Cloud informed Grant that Whites were trespassing on Native American lands and that his people needed food and clothing. Out of concern for Native Americans, Grant ordered all Generals in the West to "keep intruders off by military force if necessary". To prevent Native American hostilities and wars, Grant lobbied for and signed the Indians Appropriations Act of 1870-1871. This act ended the governmental policy of treating tribes as independent sovereign nations. Native Americans would be treated as individuals or wards of the state and Indian policies would be legislated by Congressional statutes.
Historians have debated issues of "paternalism" and "colonialism" but have glossed over the significance of contingencies, inconsistencies, and political competition involved in forging a substantive federal policy, according to scholar David Sim (2008). He examined the peace policy, emphasizing incoherence in its formulation and implementation. While the Grant administration focused on well-meaning but limited goals of placing "good men" in positions of influence and convincing native peoples of their fundamental dependency on the US government, attempts to create a new departure in federal-native relations were characterized by conflict and disagreement. According to Sim, The muddled creation of what has become known as the peace policy thus tells much about the varied and divergent attitudes Americans had toward the consolidation of their empire in the West following the Civil War.
On April 10, 1869, Congress created the Board of Indian Commissioners. Grant appointed volunteer members who were "eminent for their intelligence and philanthropy"; a previous commission had been set up under the Andrew Johnson Administration in 1868. The Grant Board was given extensive power to supervise the Bureau of Indian Affairs and "civilize" Native Americans. After the Piegan Massacre on January 23, 1870, when Major Edward M. Baker killed 173 tribal members, mostly women and children, Grant was determined to divide Native American post appointments "up among the religious churches"; by 1872, 73 Indian agencies were divided among religious denominations. A core policy was to put the western reservations under the control of religious denominations. In 1872, the implementation of the policy involved the allotting of Indian reservations to religious organizations as exclusive religious domains. Of the 73 agencies assigned, the Methodists received fourteen; the Orthodox Friends ten; the Presbyterians nine; the Episcopalians eight; the Roman Catholics seven; the Hicksite Friends six; the Baptists five; the Dutch Reformed five; the Congregationalists three; Christians two; Unitarians two; American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions one; and Lutherans one. The distribution caused immediate dissatisfaction among many groups who claimed that they had been slighted or overlooked. The selection criteria were vague and some critics saw the Peace Policy as violating Native American freedom of religion. Among the Roman Catholics, this dissatisfaction led to the establishment of the Bureau of Catholic Indian Missions in 1874. The Peace Policy remained in force until 1881, when the government heeded the protests of religious organizations whose missionaries had been removed from reservations on which they had not been assigned. Quakers or Protestant clergy predominantly controlled most of the central and southern Plains Indian territories, while all other surrounding territories were under the control of appointed military officers.
On taking office Grant's first move was signing the Act to Strengthen the Public Credit, which the Republican Congress had just passed. It ensured that all public debts, particularly war bonds, would be paid only in gold rather than in greenbacks. The price of gold on the New York exchange fell to $130 per ounce - the lowest point since the suspension of specie payment in 1862.
On May 19, 1869, Grant protected the wages of those working for the U.S. Government. In 1868, a law was passed that reduced the government working day to 8 hours; however, much of the law was later repealed that allowed day wages to also be reduced. To protect workers Grant signed an executive order that "no reduction shall be made in the wages" regardless of the reduction in hours for the government day workers.
Treasury Secretary George S. Boutwell reorganized and reformed the United States Treasury by discharging unnecessary employees, started sweeping changes in Bureau of Printing and Engraving to protect the currency from counterfeiters, and revitalized tax collections to hasten the collection of revenue. These changes soon led the Treasury to have a monthly surplus. By May 1869, Boutwell reduced the national debt by $12 million. By September the national debt was reduced by $50 million, which was achieved by selling the growing gold surplus at weekly auctions for greenbacks and buying back wartime bonds with the currency. The New York Tribune wanted the government to buy more bonds and greenbacks and the New York Times praised the Grant administration's debt policy.
The first two years of the Grant administration with George Boutwell at the Treasury helm expenditures had been reduced to $292 million in 1871 - down from $322 million in 1869. The cost of collecting taxes fell to 3.11% in 1871. Grant reduced the number of employees working in the government by 2,248 persons from 6,052 on March 1, 1869, to 3,804 on December 1, 1871. He had increased tax revenues by $108 million from 1869 to 1872. During his first administration the national debt fell from $2.5 billion to $2.2 billion.
In a rare case of preemptive reform during the Grant Administration, Brevet Major General Alfred Pleasonton was dismissed for being unqualified to hold the position of Commissioner of Internal Revenue. In 1870, Pleasonton, a Grant appointment, approved an unauthorized $60,000 tax refund and was associated with an alleged unscrupulous Connecticut firm. Treasury Secretary George Boutwell promptly stopped the refund and personally informed Grant that Pleasonton was incompetent to hold office. Refusing to resign on Boutwell's request, Pleasonton protested openly before Congress. Grant removed Pleasonton before any potential scandal broke out.
The foreign-policy of the Administration was generally successful, except for the attempt to annex Santo Domingo. The annexation of Santo Domingo was Grant's "not unrealistic" effort to relieve the plight of blacks in the South during Reconstruction and was a first step to end slavery in Cuba and Brazil. The dangers of a confrontation with Britain on the Alabama question were resolved peacefully, and to the monetary advantage of the United States. Issues regarding the Canadian boundary were easily settled. The achievements were the work of Secretary Hamilton Fish, who was a spokesman for caution and stability. A poll of historians has stated that Secretary Fish was one of the greatest Secretaries of States in United States history. Fish was appointed Secretary of State by Grant on March 17, 1869 and served on Grant's Cabinet until the end of Grant's second term on March 4, 1877. Afterwards Secretary Fish briefly served on President Rutherford B. Hayes Cabinet until March 12, 1877.
In 1869, Grant proposed to annex the independent largely black nation of the Dominican Republic, then known as Santo Domingo. Previously in 1868, President Andrew Johnson had attempted to annex the Dominican Republic and Santo Domingo, but the House of Representatives defeated two resolutions for the protection of the Dominican Republic and Santo Domingo and for the annexation of the Dominican Republic. In July 1869 Grant sent Orville E. Babcock and Rufus Ingalls who negotiated a draft treaty with Dominican Republic President Buenaventura Báez for the annexation of Santo Domingo to the United States and the sale of Samaná Bay for $2 million. To keep the island nation and Báez secure in power, Grant ordered naval ships, unauthorized by Congress, to secure the island from invasion and internal insurrection. Báez signed an annexation treaty on November 19, 1869, offered by Babcock under federal State department authorization. Secretary Fish drew up a final draft of the proposal and offered $1.5 million to the Dominican national debt, the annexation of Santo Domingo as an American state, the United States' acquisition of the rights for Samaná Bay for 50 years with an annual $150,000 rental, and guaranteed protection from foreign intervention. On January 10, 1870, the Santo Domingo treaty was submitted to the Senate for ratification. Despite his support of the annexation, Grant made the mistakes of not informing Congress of the treaty or encouraging national acceptance and enthusiasm.
Not only did Grant believe that the island would be of use to the Navy tactically, particularly Samaná Bay, but also he sought to use it as a bargaining chip. By providing a safe haven for the freedmen, he believed that the exodus of black labor would force Southern whites to realize the necessity of such a significant workforce and accept their civil rights. Grant believed the island country would increase exports and lower the trade deficit. He hoped that U.S. ownership of the island would urge Cuba, Puerto Rico, and Brazil to abandon slavery. On March 15, 1870, the Foreign Relations Committee, headed by Sen. Charles Sumner, recommended against treaty passage. Sumner, the leading spokesman for African American civil rights, believed that annexation would be enormously expensive and involve the U.S. in an ongoing civil war, and would threaten the independence of Haiti and the West Indies, thereby blocking black political progress. On May 31, 1870, Grant went before Congress and urged passage of the Dominican annexation treaty. Strongly opposed to ratification, Sumner successfully led the opposition in the Senate. On June 30, 1870, the Santo Domingo annexation treaty failed to pass the Senate; 28 votes in favor of the treaty and 28 votes against. Grant's own cabinet was divided over the Santo Domingo annexation attempt, and Bancroft Davis, assistant to Sec. Hamilton Fish, was secretly giving information to Sen. Sumner on state department negotiations.
Grant was determined to keep the Dominican Republic treaty in the public debate, mentioning Dominican Republic annexation in his December 1870 State of the Union Address. Grant was able to get Congress in January 1871 to create a special Commission to investigate the island. Senator Sumner continued to vigorously oppose and speak out against annexation. Grant appointed Frederick Douglass, an African American civil rights activist, as one of the Commissioners who voyaged to the Dominican Republic. Returning to the United States after several months, the Commission in April 1871, issued a report that stated the Dominican people desired annexation and that the island would be beneficial to the United States. To celebrate the Commissions return, Grant invited the Commissioners to the White House, except Frederick Douglass. African American leaders were upset and the issue of Douglass not being invited to the White House dinner was brought up during the 1872 Presidential election by Horace Greeley. Douglas, however, who was personally disappointed for not being invited to the White House, remained loyal to Grant and the Republican Party. Although the Commission supported Grant's annexation attempt, there was not enough enthusiasm in Congress to vote on a second annexation treaty.
Unable constitutionally to go directly after Sen. Sumner, Grant immediately removed Sumner's close and respected friend Ambassador, John Lothrop Motley. With Grant's prodding in the Senate, Sumner was finally deposed from the Foreign Relations Committee. Grant reshaped his coalition, known as "New Radicals", working with enemies of Sumner such as Ben Butler of Massachusetts, Roscoe Conkling of New York, and Oliver P. Morton of Indiana, giving in to Fish's demands that Cuba rebels be rejected, and moving his Southern patronage from the radical blacks and carpetbaggers who were allied with Sumner to more moderate Republicans. This set the stage of the Liberal Republican revolt of 1872, when Sumner and his allies publicly denounced Grant and supported Horace Greeley and the Liberal Republicans.
A Congressional investigation in June 1870 led by Senator Carl Schurz revealed that Babcock and Ingalls both had land interests in the Bay of Samaná that would increase in value if the Santo Domingo treaty were ratified. U.S. Navy ships, with Grant's authorization, had been sent to protect Báez from an invasion by a Dominican rebel, Gregorio Luperón, while the treaty negotiations were taking place. The investigation had initially been called to settle a dispute between an American businessman Davis Hatch against the United States government. Báez had imprisoned Hatch without trial for his opposition to the Báez government. Hatch had claimed that the United States had failed to protect him from imprisonment. The majority Congressional report dismissed Hatch's claim and exonerated both Babcock and Ingalls. The Hatch incident, however, kept certain Senators from being enthusiastic about ratifying the treaty.
In 1869, Grant was urged by popular opinion to support rebels in Cuba with military assistance and to give them U.S. diplomatic recognition. Grant and Fish instead attempted to use arbitration with Spain with minister Daniel Sickles negotiating. Grant and Fish wanted Cuban independence and to end slavery without U.S. military intervention or occupation. Fish, diligently and against popular pressure, was able to keep Grant from officially recognizing Cuban independence because it would have endangered negotiations with Britain over the Alabama Claims. The Sickle's peace negotiations failed in Madrid, but Grant and Fish did not succumb to popular pressure for U.S. military involvement in the Cuban rebellion. Grant and Fish sent a message to Congress, written by Fish and signed by Grant. The message urged strict neutrality not to officially recognize the Cuban revolt, calming national fears.
Historians have credited the Treaty of Washington for implementing International Arbitration to allow outside experts to settle disputes. Grant's able Secretary of State Hamilton Fish had orchestrated many of the events leading up to the treaty. Previously, Secretary of State William H. Seward during the Johnson administration first proposed an initial treaty concerning damages done to American merchants by three Confederate warships, CSS Florida, CSS Alabama, and CSS Shenandoah built in Britain. These damages were collectively known as the Alabama Claims. These ships had inflicted tremendous damage to U.S. merchant ships during the Civil War and Washington wanted the British to pay heavy damages, perhaps including turning over Canada.
In April 1869, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly rejected a proposed treaty which paid too little and contained no admission of British guilt for prolonging the war. Senator Charles Sumner spoke up before Congress; publicly denounced Queen Victoria; demanded a huge reparation; and opened the possibility of Canada ceded to the United States as payment. The speech angered the British government, and talks had to be put off until matters cooled down. Negotiations for a new treaty began in January 1871 when Britain sent Sir John Rose to America to meet with Fish. A joint high commission was created on February 9, 1871, in Washington, consisting of representatives from both Britain and the United States. The commission created a treaty where an international Tribunal would settle the damage amounts; the British admitted regret, not fault, over the destructive actions of the Confederate war cruisers. Grant approved and signed the treaty on May 8, 1871; the Senate ratified the Treaty of Washington on May 24, 1871.
The Tribunal met in Geneva, Switzerland. The U.S. was represented by Charles Francis Adams, one of five international arbitrators, and was counseled by William M. Evarts, Caleb Cushing, and Morrison R. Waite. On August 25, 1872, the Tribunal awarded United States $15.5 million in gold; $1.9 million was awarded to Great Britain. Historian Amos Elwood Corning noted that the Treaty of Washington and arbitration "bequeathed to the world a priceless legacy". In addition to the $15.5 million arbitration award, the treaty resolved some disputes over borders and fishing rights. On October 21, 1872, William I, Emperor of Germany, settled a boundary dispute in favor of the United States.
A primary role of the United States Navy in the 19th century was to protect American commercial interests and open trade to Eastern markets, including Japan and China. Korea had excluded all foreign trade and, the U.S. sought a treaty dealing with shipwrecked sailors after the crew of a stranded American commercial ship was killed. The long-term goal for the Grant Administration was to open Korea to Western markets in the same way Commodore Matthew Perry had opened Japan in 1854 by a Naval display of military force. On May 30, 1871, Rear Admiral John Rodgers with a fleet of five ships, part of the Asiatic Squadron, arrived at the mouth of the Salee River below Seoul. The fleet included the Colorado, one of the largest ships in the Navy with 47 guns, 47 officers, and a 571-man crew. While waiting for senior Korean officials to negotiate, Rogers sent ships out to make soundings of the Salee River for navigational purposes.
The American fleet was fired upon by a Korean fort, but there was little damage. Rogers gave the Korean government ten days to apologize or begin talks, but the Royal Court kept silent. After ten days passed, on June 10, Rogers began a series of amphibious assaults that destroyed 5 Korean forts. These military engagements were known as the Battle of Ganghwa. Several hundred Korean soldiers and three Americans were killed. Korea still refused to negotiate, and the American fleet sailed away. The Koreans refer to this 1871 U.S. military action as Shinmiyangyo. Grant defended Rogers in his third annual message to Congress in December 1871. After a change in regimes in Seoul, in 1881, the U.S. negotiated a treaty - the first treaty between Korea and a Western nation.
Organized exploration of the upper Yellowstone River began in fall 1869 when the Cook-Folsom-Peterson Expedition made a month-long journey up the Yellowstone River and into the geyser basins. In 1870, the somewhat more official Washburn-Langford-Doane Expedition explored the same regions of the upper Yellowstone and geyser basins, naming Old Faithful and many other park features. Official reports from Lieutenant Gustavus Cheyney Doane and Scribner's Monthly accounts by Nathaniel P. Langford brought increased public awareness to the natural wonders of the region. Influenced by Jay Cooke of the Northern Pacific Railroad and Langford's public speeches about the Yellowstone on the East Coast, geologist Ferdinand Hayden sought funding from Congress for an expedition under the auspices of the U.S. Geological Survey. In March 1871 Grant signed into law Congressional legislation appropriating $40,000 to finance the Hayden Geological Survey of 1871. Hayden was given instructions by Grant's Secretary of Interior, Columbus Delano. The expedition party was composed of 36 civilians, mostly scientists, and two military escorts. Among the survey party were artist Thomas Moran and photographer William Henry Jackson. Hayden's published reports, magazine articles, along with paintings by Moran and photographs by Jackson convinced Congress to preserve the natural wonders of the upper Yellowstone. On December 18, 1871, a bill was introduced simultaneously in the Senate, by Senator S.C. Pomeroy of Kansas, and in the House of Representatives, by Congressman William H. Clagett of the Montana Territory, for the establishment of a park at the headwaters of the Yellowstone River. Hayden's influence on Congress is readily apparent when examining the detailed information contained in the report of the House Committee on Public Lands: "The bill now before Congress has for its objective the withdrawal from settlement, occupancy, or sale, under the laws of the United States a tract of land fifty-five by sixty-five miles, about the sources of the Yellowstone and Missouri Rivers, and dedicates and sets apart as a great national park or pleasure-ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people." When the bill was presented to Congress, the bill's chief supporters, ably prepared by Langford, Hayden and Jay Cooke, convinced their colleagues that the region's real value was as a park area, to be preserved in its natural state. The bill was approved by a comfortable margin in the Senate on January 30, 1872, and by the House on February 27. On March 1, 1872, Grant played his role, in signing the "Act of Dedication" into law. It established the Yellowstone region as the nation's first national park, made possible by three years of exploration by Cook-Folsom-Peterson (1869), Washburn-Langford-Doane (1870), and Hayden (1871).
In 1872, around two thousand white buffalo hunters working between Wichita, Kansas, and Arkansas were killing buffalo for their hides by the many thousands. Acres of land were dedicated solely for drying the hides of the slaughtered buffalo. Native Americans protested at the "wanton destruction" of their food supply. By 1874, 3,700,000 bison had been destroyed on the western and southern plains of the United States. Concern for the destruction of the buffalo mounted, and a bill in Congress was passed, HR 921, that would have made buffalo hunting illegal for whites. Taking advice from Secretary Delano, Grant chose to pocket-veto the bill, believing that the demise of the buffalo would reduce Indian wars and force tribes to stay on their respected reservations and to adopt an agricultural lifestyle rather than roaming the plains and hunting buffalo. Ranchers wanted the buffalo gone to open pasture land for their cattle herds. With the buffalo food supply lowered, Native Americans were forced to stay on reservations.
The 1872 Yellowstone Act prohibited fish and game, including buffalo, from "wanton destruction" within the confines of the park. However, Congress did not appropriate funds or legislation for the enforcement against poaching; as a result, Secretary Delano could not hire people to aid tourists or protect Yellowstone from encroachment. By the 1880s buffalo herds dwindled to only a few hundred, a majority found mostly in Yellowstone National Park. As the Indian wars ended, Congress appropriated money and enforcement legislation in 1894, signed into law by President Grover Cleveland, that protected and preserved buffalo and other wildlife in Yellowstone. Grant also signed legislation that protected northern fur seals on Alaska's Pribilof Islands. This was the first law in U.S. history that specifically protected wildlife on federally owned land.
In September 1869, financial manipulators Jay Gould and Jim Fisk set up an elaborate scam to corner the gold market through buying up all the gold at the same time to drive up the price. The plan was to keep the Government from selling gold, thus driving its price. Grant and Secretary of Treasury George S. Boutwell found out about the gold market speculation and ordered the sale of $4 million in gold on (Black) Friday, September 23. Gould and Fisk were thwarted, and the price of gold dropped. The effects of releasing the gold by Boutwell were disastrous. Stock prices plunged and food prices dropped, devastating farmers for years.
The reform of the spoils system of political patronage entered the national agenda under the Grant Presidency, that would take on the fervor of a religious revival. The distribution of federal jobs by Congressional legislators was considered vital for their reelection to Congress. Grant required that all applicants to federal jobs apply directly to the Department heads, rather than the President. Two of Grant's appointments, Secretary of Interior Jacob D. Cox and Secretary of Treasury George S. Boutwell put in place examinations in their respected departments advocated by reformers. Grant and all reformed agreed that the prevailing system of appointments was unsound, for it maximized party advantage and minimized efficiency and the nonpartisan interest of good government. Historian John Simon says his efforts at civil service reform were honest, but that they were met with criticism from all sides and were a failure.
Grant was the first president to recommend a professional civil service. He pushed the initial legislation through Congress, and appointed the members for the first United States Civil Service Commission. The temporary Commission recommended administering competitive exams and issuing regulations on the hiring and promotion of government employees. Grant ordered their recommendations in effect in 1872; having lasted for two years until December 1874. At the New York Custom House, a port that took in hundreds of millions of dollars a year in revenue, applicants for an entry position now had to pass a written civil service examination. Chester A. Arthur who was appointed by Grant as New York Custom Collector stated that the examinations excluded and deterred unfit persons from getting employment positions. However, Congress, in no mood to reform itself, denied any long-term reform by refusing to enact the necessary legislation to make the changes permanent. Historians have traditionally been divided whether patronage, meaning appointments made without a merit system, should be labeled corruption.
The movement for Civil Service reform reflected two distinct objectives: to eliminate the corruption and inefficiencies in a non-professional bureaucracy and to check the power of President Johnson. Although many reformers after the Election of 1868 looked to Grant to ram Civil Service legislation through Congress, he refused, saying:
Grant used patronage to build his party and help his friends. He protected those whom he thought were the victims of injustice or attacks by his enemies, even if they were guilty. Grant believed in loyalty to his friends, as one writer called it the "Chivalry of Friendship".
In the early 1870s during the Grant Administration, lucrative postal route contracts were given to local contractors on the Pacific Coast and Southern regions of the United States. These were known as Star Routes because an asterisk was given on official Post Office documents. These remote routes were hundreds of miles long and went to the most rural parts of the United States by horse and buggy. In obtaining these highly prized postal contracts, an intricate ring of bribery and straw bidding was set up in the Postal Contract office; the ring consisted of contractors, postal clerks, and various intermediary brokers. Straw bidding was at its highest practice while John Creswell, Grant's 1869 appointment, was Postmaster-General. An 1872 federal investigation into the matter exonerated Creswell, but he was censured by the minority House report. A $40,000 bribe to the 42nd Congress by one postal contractor had tainted the results of the investigation. In 1876, another congressional investigation under a Democratic House shut down the postal ring for a few years.
Prior to the Presidential Election of 1872 two congressional and one Treasury Department investigations took place over corruption at the New York Custom House under Grant collector appointments Moses H. Grinnell and Thomas Murphy. Private warehouses were taking imported goods from the docks and charging shippers storage fees. Grant's friend, George K. Leet, was allegedly involved with exorbitant pricing for storing goods and splitting the profits. Grant's third collector appointment, Chester A. Arthur, implemented Secretary of Treasury George S. Boutwell's reform to keep the goods protected on the docks rather than private storage.
On March 3, 1873, Grant signed a law that authorized the president's salary to be increased from $25,000 a year to $50,000 a year and Congressmen's salaries to be increased by $2,500. Representatives also received a retroactive pay bonus for previous two years of service. This was done in secret and attached to a general appropriations bill. Reforming newspapers quickly exposed the law and the bonus was repealed in January 1874. Grant missed an opportunity to veto the bill and to make a strong statement for good government.
As his first term entered its final year, Grant remained popular throughout the nation despite the accusations of corruption that were swirling around his administration. When Republicans gathered for their 1872 national convention he was unanimously nominated for a second term. Henry Wilson was selected as his running mate over scandal-tainted Vice President Schuyler Colfax. The parry platform advocated high tariffs and a continuation of Radical Reconstruction policies that supported five military districts in the Southern states.
During Grant's first term a significant number of Republicans had become completely disillusioned with the party. Weary of the scandals and opposed to several of Grant's policies, split from the party to form the Liberal Republican Party. At the party's only national convention, held in May 1872 New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley was nominated for president, and Benjamin Gratz Brown was nominated for vice president. They advocated civil service reform, a low tariff, and granting amnesty to former Confederate soldiers. They also wanted to end reconstruction and restore local self-government in the South.
The Democrats, who at this time had no strong candidate choice of their own, saw an opportunity to consolidate the anti-Grant vote and jumped on the Greeley bandwagon, reluctantly adopting Greeley and Brown as their nominees. It is the only time in American history when a major party endorsed the candidate of a third party.
While Grant, like incumbent presidents before him, did not campaign, an efficient party organization composed of thousands of patronage appointees, did so on his behalf. Frederick Douglass supported Grant and reminded black voters that Grant had destroyed the violent Ku Klux Klan. Greeley embarked on a five-state campaign tour in late September, during which he delivered nearly 200 speeches. His campaign was plagued by misstatements and embarrassing moments.
However, because of political infighting between Liberal Republicans and Democrats, and due to several campaign blunders, the physically ailing Greeley was no match for Grant, who won in a landslide. Grant won 286 of the 352 Electoral College votes, and received 55.8 percent of the popular vote nationwide. The President's reelection victory also brought an overwhelming Republican majority into both houses of Congress. Heartbroken after a hard-fought political campaign, Greeley died a few weeks after the election. Out of respect for Greeley, Grant attended his funeral.
The second inauguration of Ulysses Grant's Presidency was held on Tuesday, March 4, 1873, commencing the second four-year term his presidency. it was the only term of Henry Wilson as Vice President. Subsequently, the inaugural ball ended early when the food froze. Wilson died 2 years, 263 days into this term, and the office remained vacant for the balance of it. Departing from the White House, a parade escorted Grant down the newly paved Pennsylvania Avenue, which was all decorated with banners and flags, on to the swearing-in ceremony in front of the Capitol building. Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase administered the presidential oath of office. This was one of the coldest inaugurations in U.S. history, with the temperature at only 6 degrees at sunrise. After the swearing-in ceremony the inaugural parade commenced down Pennsylvania. The Evening Star observed. "The private stands and windows along the entire route were crowded to excess." The parade consisted of a variety of military units along with marching bands, and civic organizations. The military units, in their fancy regalia, were the most noticeable. Altogether there were approximately 12,000 marchers who participated, including several units of African-American soldiers. At the inaugural ball there were some 6,000 people in attendance. Great care was taken to ensure that Grant's inaugural ball would be in spacious quarters and would feature an elegant assortment of appetizers, food, and champagne. A large temporary wooden building was constructed at Judiciary Square to accommodate the event. Grant arrived around 11:30pm and the dancing began.
Grant was vigorous in his enforcement of the 14th and 15th amendments and prosecuted thousands of persons who violated African American civil rights; he used military force to put down political insurrections in Louisiana, Mississippi, and South Carolina. He proactively used military and Justice Department enforcement of civil rights laws and the protection of African Americans more than any other 19th-century president. He used his full powers to weaken the Ku Klux Klan, reducing violence and intimidation in the South. He appointed James Milton Turner as the first African American minister to a foreign nation. Grant's relationship with Charles Sumner, the leader in promoting civil rights, was shattered by the Senator's opposition to Grant's plan to acquire Santo Domingo by treaty. Grant retaliated, firing men Sumner had recommended and having allies strip Sumner of his chairmanship of the Foreign Relations Committee. Sumner joined the Liberal Republican movement in 1872 to fight Grant's reelection.
Conservative resistance to Republican state governments grew after the 1872 elections. With the destruction of the Klan in 1872, new secret paramilitary organizations arose in the Deep South. In Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Louisiana, the Red Shirts and White League operated openly and were better organized than the Ku Klux Klan. Their goals were to oust the Republicans, return Conservative whites to power, and use whatever illegal methods needed to achieve them. Being loyal to his veterans, Grant remained determined that African Americans would receive protection.
Polygamy, Chinese prostitution, support of Jewish people, and secular education were also issues during Reconstruction.
After the November 4, 1872, election, Louisiana was a split state. In a controversial election, two candidates were claiming victory as governor. Violence was used to intimidate black Republicans. The fusionist party of Liberal Republicans and Democrats claimed John McEnery as the victor, while the Republicans claimed U.S. Senator William P. Kellogg. Two months later each candidate was sworn in as governor on January 13, 1873. A federal judge ruled that Kellogg was the rightful winner of the election and ordered him and the Republican-based majority to be seated. The White League supported McEnry and prepared to use military force to remove Kellogg from office. Grant ordered troops to enforce the court order and protect Kellogg. On March 4, Federal troops under a flag of truce and Kellogg's state militia defeated McEnry's fusionist party's insurrection.
A dispute arose over who would be installed as judge and sheriff at the Colfax courthouse in Grant Parish. Kellogg's two appointees had seized control of the Court House on March 25 with aid and protection of black state militia troops. Then on April 13, White League forces attacked the courthouse and massacred 50 black militiamen who had been captured. A total of 105 blacks were killed trying to defend the Colfax courthouse for Governor Kellogg. On April 21, Grant sent in the U.S. 19th Infantry Regiment to restore order. On May 22, Grant issued a new proclamation to restore order in Louisiana. On May 31, McEnry finally told his followers to obey "peremptory orders" of the President. The orders brought a brief peace to New Orleans and most of Louisiana, except, ironically, Grant Parish.
In the fall of 1872, the Republican party split in Arkansas and ran two candidates for governor, Elisha Baxter and Joseph Brooks. Massive fraud characterized the election, but Baxter was declared the winner and took office. Brooks never gave up; finally, in 1874, a local judge ruled Brooks was entitled to the office and swore him in. Both sides mobilized militia units, and rioting and fighting bloodied the streets. Speculation swirled as to who President Grant would side with - either Baxter or Brooks. Grant delayed, requesting a joint session of the Arkansas government to figure out peacefully who would be the Governor, but Baxter refused to participate. On May 15, 1874, Grant issued a Proclamation that Baxter was the legitimate Governor of Arkansas, and hostilities ceased. In the fall of 1874 the people of Arkansas voted out Baxter, and Republicans and the Redeemers came to power.
A few months later in early 1875, Grant announced that Brooks had been legitimately elected back in 1872. Grant did not send in troops, and Brooks never regained office. Instead, Grant appointed him to the high-paying patronage job of US postmaster in Little Rock. Grant's legalistic approach Did resolve the conflict peacefully, but it left the Republican Party in Arkansas in total disarray, and further discredited grants reputation. 
In August 1874, the Vicksburg city government elected White reform party candidates consisting of Republicans and Democrats. They promised to lower city spending and taxes. Despite such intentions, the reform movement turned racist when the new White city officials went after the county government, which had a majority of African Americans. The White League threatened the life of and expelled Crosby, the black Warren County Sheriff and tax collector. Crosby sought help from Republican Governor Adelbert Ames to regain his position as sheriff. Governor Ames told him to take other African Americans and use force to retain his lawful position. At that time Vicksburg had a population of 12,443, more than half of whom were African American.
On December 7, 1874, Crosby and an African-American militia approached Vicksburg. He had said that the Whites were, "ruffians, barbarians, and political banditti". A series of confrontations occurred against white paramilitary forces that resulted in the deaths of 29 African Americans and 2 Whites. The White militia retained control of the County Court House and jail.
On December 21, Grant issued a Presidential Proclamation for the people in Vicksburg to stop fighting. General Philip Sheridan, based in Louisiana for this regional territory, dispatched federal troops, who reinstated Crosby as sheriff and restored the peace. When questioned about the matter, Governor Ames denied that he had told Crosby to use African-American militia. On June 7, 1875, Crosby was shot to death by a white deputy while drinking in a bar. The origins of the shooting remained a mystery.
On September 14, 1874, the White League and Democratic militia took control of the state house at New Orleans, and the Republican Governor William P. Kellogg was forced to flee. Former Confederate General James A. Longstreet, with 3,000 African American militia and 400 Metropolitan police, made a counterattack on the 8,000 White League troops. Consisting of former Confederate soldiers, the experienced White League troops routed Longstreet's army. On September 17, Grant sent in Federal troops, and they restored the government back to Kellogg. During the following controversial election in November, passions rose high, and violence mixed with fraud were rampant; the state of affairs in New Orleans was becoming out of control. The results were that 53 Republicans and 53 Democrats were elected with 5 remaining seats to be decided by the legislature.
Grant had been careful to watch the elections and secretly sent Phil Sheridan in to keep law and order in the state. Sheridan had arrived in New Orleans a few days before the January 4, 1875, legislature opening meeting. At the convention the Democrats again with military force took control of the state building out of Republican hands. Initially, the Democrats were protected by federal troops under Colonel Régis de Trobriand, and the escaped Republicans were removed from the hallways of the state building. However, Governor Kellogg then requested that Trobriand reseat the Republicans. Trobriand returned to the Statehouse and used bayonets to force the Democrats out of the building. The Republicans then organized their own house with their own speakers all being protected by the Federal Army. Sheridan, who had annexed the Department of the Gulf to his command at 9:00 P.M., claimed that the federal troops were being neutral since they had also protected the Democrats earlier.
Throughout his presidency, Grant was continually concerned with the civil rights of all Americans, "irrespective of nationality, color, or religion." Grant signed the Civil Rights Act of 1875 that allowed citizens access to public eating establishments, hotels, and places of entertainment. This was done particularly to protect African Americans who were discriminated across United States. The bill was also passed in honor of Senator Charles Sumner who had previously attempted to pass a civil rights bill in 1872. In his sixth message to Congress, he summed up his own views, "While I remain Executive all the laws of Congress and the provisions of the Constitution ... will be enforced with rigor ... Treat the Negro as a citizen and a voter, as he is and must remain ... Then we shall have no complaint of sectional interference." In the pursued equal justice for all category from the 2009 CSPAN Presidential rating survey Grant scored a 9 getting into the top ten.
During the election year of 1876, South Carolina was in a state of rebellion against Republican governor Daniel H. Chamberlain. Conservatives were determined to win the election for ex-Confederate Wade Hampton through violence and intimidation. The Republicans went on to nominate Chamberlain for a second term. Hampton supporters, donning red shirts, disrupted Republican meetings with gun shootings and yelling. Tensions became violent on July 8, 1876, when five African Americans were murdered at Hamburg. The rifle clubs, wearing their Red Shirts, were better armed than the blacks. South Carolina was ruled more by "mobocracy and bloodshed" than by Chamberlain's government.
Black militia fought back in Charleston on September 6, 1876, in what was known as the "King Street riot". The white militia assumed defensive positions out of concern over possible intervention from federal troops. Then, on September 19, the Red Shirts took offensive action by openly killing between 30 and 50 African Americans outside Ellenton. During the massacre, state representative Simon Coker was killed. On October 7, Governor Chamberlain declared martial law and told all the "rifle club" members to put down their weapons. In the meantime, Wade Hampton never ceased to remind Chamberlain that he did not rule South Carolina. Out of desperation, Chamberlain wrote to Grant and asked for federal intervention. The "Cainhoy riot" took place on October 15 when Republicans held a rally at "Brick Church" outside Cainhoy. Blacks and whites both opened fire; six whites and one black were killed. Grant, upset over the Ellenton and Cainhoy riots, finally declared a Presidential Proclamation on October 17, 1876 and ordered all persons, within 3 days, to cease their lawless activities and disperse to their homes. A total of 1,144 federal infantrymen were sent into South Carolina, and the violence stopped; election day was quiet. Both Hampton and Chamberlain claimed victory, and for a while both acted as governor; Hampton took the office in 1877 after President Rutherford B. Hayes withdrew federal troops and after Chamberlain left the state.
In October 1875, Grant traveled to Utah and was surprised that the Mormons treated him kindly. He told Utah territorial governor, George W. Emery, that he had been deceived concerning the Mormons. However, on December 7, 1875, after his return to Washington, Grant wrote to Congress in his seventh annual State of the Union address that as "an institution polygamy should be banished from the land..." Grant believed that polygamy negatively affected children and women. Grant advocated that a second law, stronger than the Morrill Act, be passed to "punish so flagrant a crime against decency and morality."
Grant believed strongly in the separation of church and state and championed complete secularization in public schools. In a September 1875 speech, Grant advocated "security of free thought, free speech, and free press, pure morals, unfettered religious sentiments, and of equal rights and privileges to all men, irrespective of nationality, color, or religion." In regard to public education, Grant endorsed that every child should receive "the opportunity of a good common school education, unmixed with sectarian, pagan, or atheist tenets. Leave the matter of religion to the family altar, the church, and the private schools... Keep the church and the state forever separate."
Grant very much regretted his wartime order expelling Jewish traders. The Jewish community was angry with Grant and feared for their status in America even though President Lincoln forced Grant to rescind the order immediately. Grant publicly apologized for it in 1868. When he became president in 1869, he set out to make amends. Historian Jonathan Sarna argues:
Under Grant's peace policy, wars between settlers, the federal army, and the American Indians had been decreasing from 101 per year in 1869 to a low of 15 per year in 1875. However, the discovery of gold in the Black Hills of the Dakota Territory and the completion of the Northern Pacific Railway, threatened to unravel Grant's peace policy, as white settlers encroached upon native land to mine for gold. Indian wars per year jumped up to 32 in 1876 and remained at 43 in 1877. One of the highest casualty Indian battles that took place in American history was at the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876. Indian war casualties in Montana went from 5 in 1875, to 613 in 1876 and 436 in 1877.
In January 1873, Grant's Native American peace policy was challenged. Two weeks after Grant was elected for a second term, fighting broke out between the Modocs and settlers near the California-Oregon border. The Modocs, led by Captain Jack, killed 18 white settlers and then found a strong defensive position. Grant ordered General Sherman not to attack the Indians but settle matters peacefully with a commission. Sherman then sent Major General Edward Canby, but Captain Jack killed him. Reverend Eleazar Thomas, a Methodist minister, was also killed. Alfred B. Meacham, an Indian Agent, was severely wounded. The murders shocked the nation, and Sherman wired to have the Modocs exterminated. Grant overruled Sherman; Captain Jack was executed, and the remaining 155 Modocs were relocated to the Quapaw Agency in the Indian Territory. This episode and the Great Sioux War undermined public confidence in Grant's peace policy, according to historian Robert M. Utley. During the peace negotiations between Brig. Gen. Edward Canby and the Modoc tribal leaders, there were more Indians in the tent then had been agreed upon. As the Indians grew more hostile, Captain Jack, said "I talk no more." and shouted "All ready." Captain Jack drew his revolver and fired directly into the head of Gen Canby. Brig. Gen Canby was the highest-ranking officer to be killed during the Indian Wars that took place from 1850 to 1890. Alfred Meacham, who survived the massacre, defended the Modocs who were put on trial.
In 1874, war erupted on the southern Plains when Quanah Parker, leader of the Comanche, led 700 tribal warriors and attacked the buffalo hunter supply base on the Canadian River, at Adobe Walls, Texas. The Army under General Phil Sheridan launched a military campaign, and, with few casualties on either side, forced the Indians back to their reservations by destroying their horses and winter food supplies. Grant, who agreed to the Army plan advocated by Generals William T. Sherman and Phil Sheridan, imprisoned 74 insurgents in Florida.
In 1874 gold had been discovered in the Black Hills in the Dakota Territory. White speculators and settlers rushed in droves seeking riches mining gold on land reserved for the Sioux tribe by the Treaty of Fort Laramie of 1868. In 1875, to avoid conflict Grant met with Red Cloud, chief of the Sioux and offered $25,000 from the government to purchase the land. The offer was declined. On November 3, 1875 at a White House meeting, Phil Sheridan told the President that the Army was overstretched and could not defend the Sioux tribe from the settlers; Grant ordered Sheridan to round up the Sioux and put them on the reservation. Sheridan used a strategy of convergence, using Army columns to force the Sioux onto the reservation. On June 25, 1876, one of these columns, led by Colonel George A. Custer met the Sioux at the Battle of Little Big Horn and was slaughtered. Approximately 253 federal soldiers and civilians were killed compared to 40 Indians. Custer's death and the Battle of Little Big Horn shocked the nation. Sheridan avenged Custer, pacified the northern Plains, and put the defeated Sioux on the reservation. On August 15, 1876, President Grant signed a proviso giving the Sioux nation $1,000,000 in rations, while the Sioux relinquished all rights to the Black Hills, except for a 40-mile land tract west of the 103rd meridian. On August 28, a seven-man committee, appointed by Grant, gave additional harsh stipulations for the Sioux in order to receive government assistance. Halfbreeds and "squaw men" (A white man with an Indian wife) were banished from the Sioux reservation. To receive the government rations, the Indians had to work the land. Reluctantly, on September 20, the Indian leaders, whose people were starving, agreed to the committee's demands and signed the agreement.
During the Great Sioux War, Grant came into conflict with Col. George Armstrong Custer after he testified in 1876 about corruption in the War Department under Secretary William W. Belknap (see below). Grant had Custer arrested for breach of military protocol in Chicago and barred him from leading an upcoming campaign against the Sioux. Grant finally relented and let Custer fight under Brig. Gen. Alfred Terry. Two months after Custer's death Grant castigated him in the press, saying "I regard Custer's massacre as a sacrifice of troops, brought on by Custer himself, that was wholly unnecessary - wholly unnecessary." As the nation was shocked by the death of Custer, Grant's Peace policy became militaristic; Congress appropriated funds for 2,500 more troops, two more forts were constructed, the army took over the Indian agencies, while Indians were barred from purchasing rifles and ammunition.
The rapidly accelerated industrial growth in post-Civil War America and throughout the world crashed with the Panic of 1873. Many banks overextended their loans and went bankrupt as a result, causing a general panic throughout the nation. In an attempt to put capital into a stringent monetary economy, Secretary of Treasury William A. Richardson released $26 million in greenbacks. Many argued that Richardson's monetary policies were not enough and some argued were illegal. In 1874, Congress debated the inflationary policy to stimulate the economy and passed the Inflation Bill of 1874 that would release an additional $18 million in greenbacks up to the original $400,000,000 amount. Eastern bankers vigorously lobbied Grant to veto the bill because of their reliance on bonds and foreign investors who did business in gold. Grant's cabinet was bitterly divided over this issue while conservative Secretary of State Hamilton Fish threatened to resign if Grant signed the bill. On April 22, 1874, after evaluating his own reasons for wanting to sign the bill, Grant unexpectedly vetoed the bill against the popular election strategy of the Republican Party because he believed it would destroy the nation's credit.
On January 14, 1875, Grant signed the Resumption of Specie Act, and he could not have been happier; he wrote a note to Congress congratulating members on the passage of the act. The legislation was drafted by Ohio Republican Senator John Sherman. This act provided that paper money in circulation would be exchanged for gold specie and silver coins and would be effective January 1, 1879. The act also implemented that gradual steps would be taken to reduce the number of greenbacks in circulation. At that time there were "paper coin" currency worth less than $1.00, and these would be exchanged for silver coins. Its effect was to stabilize the currency and make the consumers money as "good as gold". In an age without a Federal Reserve system to control inflation, this act stabilized the economy. Grant considered it the hallmark of his administration.
Historians credit Secretary of State Hamilton Fish with a highly effective foreign policy. Ronald Cedric White says of Grant, "everyone agreed he chose well when he appointed Hamilton Fish secretary of state."
On October 31, 1873, a steamer Virginius, flying the American flag carrying war materials and men to aid the Cuban insurrection (in violation of American and Spanish law) was intercepted and taken to Cuba. After a hasty trial, the local Spanish officials executed 53 would-be insurgents, eight of whom were United States citizens; orders from Madrid to delay the executions arrived too late. War scares erupted in both the U.S. and Spain, heightened by the bellicose dispatches from the American minister in Madrid, retired general Daniel Sickles. Secretary of State Fish kept a cool demeanor in the crisis, and through investigation discovered there was a question over whether the Virginius ship had the right to bear the United States flag. The Spanish Republic's President Emilio Castelar expressed profound regret for the tragedy and was willing to make reparations through arbitration. Fish negotiated reparations with the Spanish minister Senor Poly y Bernabe. With Grant's approval, Spain was to surrender Virginius, pay an indemnity to the surviving families of the Americans executed, and salute the American flag; the episode ended quietly.
In December 1874, Grant held a state dinner at the White House for the King of Hawaii, David Kalakaua, who was seeking the importation of Hawaiian sugar duty-free to the United States. Grant and Fish were able to produce a successful free trade treaty in 1875 with the Kingdom of Hawaii, incorporating the Pacific islands' sugar industry into the United States' economy sphere.
The U.S. settled the war between Liberia and the native Grebo people in 1876 by dispatching the USS Alaska to Liberia. James Milton Turner, the first African American ambassador from the United States, requested that a warship be sent to protect American property in Liberia, a former American colony. After Alaska arrived, Turner negotiated the incorporation of Grebo people into Liberian society and the ousting of foreign traders from Liberia.
The Panic of 1873 was a worldwide depression that started when the stock market in Vienna, Austria crashed in June that year. Unsettling markets soon spread to Berlin and throughout Europe. The panic eventually reached New York when two banks went broke - the New York Warehouse & Security Company on September 18 and the major railroad financier Jay Cooke & Company on September 19. The ensuing depression lasted 5 years, ruined thousands of businesses, depressed daily wages by 25% from 1873 to 1876, and brought the unemployment rate up to 14%.
The causes of the panic in the United States included the destruction of credit from over-speculation in the stock markets and railroad industry. Eight years of unprecedented growth after the Civil War had brought thousands of miles of railroad construction, thousands of industrial factories, and a strong stock market; the South experienced a boom in agriculture. However, all this growth was done on borrowed money by many banks in the United States that have over-speculated in the Railroad industry by as much as $20 million. A strict monetary policy under Secretary of Treasury George S. Boutwell, during the height of the railroad speculations, contributed to unsettled markets. Boutwell created monetary stringency by selling more gold then he bought bonds. The Coinage Act of 1873 made gold the de facto currency metal over silver.
On September 20, 1873, the Grant Administration finally responded. Grant's Secretary of Treasury William Adams Richardson, Boutwell's replacement, bought $2.5 million of five-twenty bonds with gold. On Monday, September 22, Richardson bought $3 million of bonds with legal tender notes or greenbacks and purchased $5.5 million in legal tender certificates. From September 24 to September 25 the Treasury department bought $24 million in bonds and certificates with greenbacks. On September 29 the Secretary prepaid the interest on $12 million bonds bought from security banks. From October 1873 to January 4, 1874, Richardson kept liquidating bonds until $26 million greenback reserves were issued to make up for lost revenue in the Treasury. These actions did help curb the effects of the general panic by allowing more currency into the commercial banks and hence allowing more money to be lent and spent. Historians have blamed the Grant administration for not responding to the crisis promptly and for not taking adequate measures to reduce the negative effects of the general panic. The monetary policies of both Secretary Boutwell and Richardson were inconsistent from 1872 to 1873. The government's ultimate failure was in not reestablishing confidence in the businesses that had been the source of distrust. The Panic of 1873 eventually ran its course despite all the limited efforts from the government.
Grant's "cronyism", as Smith (2001) calls it, was apparent when he overruled Army experts to help a wartime friend, engineer, James B. Eads. Eads was building a major railroad bridge across the Mississippi at St. Louis that had been authorized by Congress in 1866 and was nearing completion in 1873. However, the Army Corps of Engineers chief of engineers, agreeing with steamboat interests, ordered Eads to build a canal around the bridge because the bridge would be "a serious obstacle to navigation." After talking with Eads at the White House, Grant reversed the order and the 6,442 feet (1,964 m) long steel arched bridge went on to completion in 1874 without a canal.
In the off-year Congressional elections of 1874, the Democrats scored a major landslide. A deep economic depression dispirited the Republicans and many other problems finally caught up with them. It was an important turning point, as the Democrats gained control of the House. It signaled the imminent end of Reconstruction, which Democrats opposed. Historians emphasize the factors of economic depression and attacks on the Grant administration for corruption as key factors in the vote.
The ongoing destruction of pro-black Reconstruction policies in the South was one of the main reasons for the shift in that region. Historian James Ford Rhodes explored the multiple causes of the results in the North::67
Scandals and frauds continued to be exposed during Grant's second term in office, although Grant's appointments of reformers to his cabinet temporarily helped his presidential reputation, cleaned up federal departments, and defeated the notorious Whiskey Ring. Grant, however, often remained loyal to cabinet members or appointees involved in corruption or mismanagement, refusing to believe in their guilt. The Democrats along with the Liberal Republicans had gained control of the House of Representatives and held many Committee meetings to stop political graft. The Emma Silver mine was a minor embarrassment associated with American Ambassador to Britain, Robert C. Schenck, using his name to promote a worked out silver mine. The Crédit Mobilier scandal's origins were during the presidential Administrations of Abraham Lincoln and Andrew Johnson, however, political congressional infighting during the Grant Administration exposed the scandal.
In June 1874, Treasury Secretary William A. Richardson gave private contracts to one John D. Sanborn who in turn collected illegally withheld taxes for fees at inflated commissions. The profits from the commissions were allegedly split with Richardson and Senator Benjamin Butler, while Sanborn claimed these payments were "expenses". Senator Butler had written a loophole in the law that allowed Sanborn to collect the commissions, but Sanborn would not reveal whom he split the profits with.
In April 1875, it was discovered that Attorney General George H. Williams allegedly received a bribe through a $30,000 gift to his wife from a Merchant house company, Pratt & Boyd, to drop the case for fraudulent customhouse entries. Williams was forced to resign by Grant in 1875.
By 1875, the Department of the Interior under Secretary of Interior Columbus Delano was in serious disrepair with corruption and fraud. Profiteering prevailed in the Bureau of Indian Affairs, controlled by corrupt clerks and bogus agents. This proved to be the most serious detriment to Grant's Indian peace policy. Many agents that worked for the department made unscrupulous fortunes and retired with more money than their pay would allow at the expense and exploitation of Native Americans. Delano had allowed "Indian Attorneys" who were paid by Native American tribes $8.00 a day plus food and travel expenses for sham representation in Washington. Delano exempted his department from Grant's civil service reform implementation in federal offices. Delano told Grant the Interior Department was too large to implement civil service reform.
Delano's son, John Delano, and Ulysses S. Grant's own brother, Orvil Grant, were discovered to have been awarded lucrative corrupt cartographical contracts by Surveyor General Silas Reed. Neither John Delano nor Orvil Grant performed any work or were qualified to hold such surveying positions. Massive fraud was also found in the Patent Office with corrupt clerks who embezzled from the government payroll. Under increasing pressure by the press and Indian reformers, Delano resigned from office on October 15, 1875. Grant then appointed Zachariah Chandler as Secretary of the Interior who replaced Delano. Chandler vigorously uncovered and cleaned up the fraud in the department by firing all the clerks and banned the phony "Indian Attorneys" access to Washington. Grant's "Quaker" or church appointments partially made up the lack of food staples and housing from the government. Chandler cleaned up the Patent Office by firing all the corrupt clerks.
In May 1875, Secretary of Treasury Benjamin H. Bristow discovered that millions of dollars of taxes were being funneled into an illegal ring from whiskey manufacturers. Prosecutions ensued, and many were put in prison. Grant's private Secretary Orville E. Babcock was indicted and later acquitted in trial. Grant's new Attorney General Edwards Pierrepont and Bristow formed an anti-corruption team to weed out criminal activity during Grant's second term. The Whiskey Ring was organized throughout the United States, and by 1875 it was a fully operating criminal association. The investigation and closure of the Whiskey Ring resulted in 230 indictments, 110 convictions, and $3,000,000 in tax revenues that were returned to the Treasury Department. Bristow and Pierrpont brought evidence to Grant of Babcock's involvement. Grant asked Babcock with Bristow and Pierrepont in attendance at the White House about the evidence. Babcock gave Grant an explanation that the evidence did not concern the Ring, and Grant quietly accepted Babcock's words at face value. During the prosecution of the Whiskey Ring leaders, Grant testified on behalf of his friend Babcock. As a result, Babcock was acquitted, however, the deposition by Grant was a great embarrassment to his reputation. The Babcock trial turned into an impeachment trial against the President by Grant's political opponents.
In March 1876 it was discovered under House investigations that Secretary of War William W. Belknap was taking extortion money in exchange for allowing an Indian trading post agent to remain in position at Fort Sill. Belknap was allowed to resign by Grant and as a result, was acquitted in a Senate impeachment trial. Profits were made at the expense of Native Americans who were supposed to receive food and clothing from the government. In late April 1876, Grant lashed out at Lieut. Col. George A. Custer, after Custer had testified at a Congressional committee one month before against Grant's brother Orville and Sec. Belknap. There had been rumors Custer had talked with the press concerning the Indian post profiteering. Custer personally went to the White House to clear matters up with the President, however, Grant refused to see him three times. When Custer left Washington on May 3 to return to Fort Lincoln, he had been removed from overall command by Grant and denied any participation of the Sioux Campaign; having been replaced by Brig. Gen. Alfred Terry. However, at Terry's insistence, Grant relented and allowed Custer to participate in the campaign against the Sioux on the condition he did not take any pressmen.
In March 1876, Secretary of Navy George M. Robeson was charged by a Democratic-controlled House investigation committee with giving lucrative contracts to Alexander Cattell & Company, a grain supplier, in return for real estate, loans, and payment of debts. The House investigating committee also discovered that Secretary Robeson had allegedly embezzled $15 million in naval construction appropriations. Since there were no financial paper trails or enough evidence for impeachment and conviction, the House Investigation committee admonished Robeson and claimed he had set up a corrupt contracting system known as "Cattellism".
In September 1876, Orville E. Babcock, Superintendent of Public Works and Buildings, was indicted in a safe burglary conspiracy case and trial. In April, corrupt building contractors in Washington, D.C. were on trial for graft when a safe robbery occurred. Bogus secret service agents broke into a safe and attempted to frame Columbus Alexander, who had exposed the corrupt contracting ring. Babcock was named as part of the conspiracy, but later acquitted in the trial against the burglars. Evidence suggests that Backcock was involved with the swindles by the corrupt Washington Contractors Ring and he wanted revenge on Columbus Alexander, an avid reformer and critic of the Grant Administration. There was also evidence that safe burglary jury had been tampered with.
In the presidential election of 1876, the Republicans nominated the fiscally conservative Rutherford B. Hayes and the Democrats nominated reformer Samuel Tilden. Results were split. Tilden received 51% of the popular vote; Hayes 48%; many black Republicans were not allowed to vote, however. Twenty key electoral votes remained undecided and in dispute. Both Republicans and Democrats claimed victory and the threat of a second civil war was eminent. Grant was watchful; encouraged Congress to settle the election by commission; and determined to keep a peaceful transfer of power. On January 29, 1877, Grant signed the Electoral Commission Act that gave a 15-member bipartisan commission power to determine electoral votes. The commission gave Hayes 185 electoral votes; Tilden received 184. Grant's personal honesty, firmness, and even-handedness reassured the nation and a second civil war was averted.
Grant's presidency has traditionally been viewed by historians as incompetent and full of corruption. An examination of his presidency reveals Grant had both successes and failures during his two terms in office. In recent years historians have elevated his presidential rating because of his support for African American civil rights. Grant had urged the passing of the 15th Amendment and signed into law the Civil Rights Bill of 1875 that gave all citizens access to places of public enterprise. He leaned heavily toward the Radical camp and often sided with their Reconstruction policies, signing into law Force Acts to prosecute the Ku Klux Klan. In foreign policy Grant won praise for the Treaty of Washington, settling the Alabama Claims issue with Britain through arbitration. Economically he sided with Eastern bankers and signed the Public Credit Act that paid U.S. debts in gold specie, but was blamed for the severe economic depression that lasted 1873-1877. Grant, wary of powerful congressional leaders, was the first President to ask for a line item veto--though Congress never allowed one.
His Presidency was inundated with many scandals caused by low standards and carelessness with his political appointees and personal associates. Nepotism, practiced by Grant, was unrestrained with almost forty family members or relatives who financially benefited from government appointments or employment. It was impossible for Grant to morally check all of the corruption generated from the socioeconomic forces of a costly American Civil War, rapid industrialization, and Westward expansionism. His associations with these scandals have tarnished his personal reputation while President and afterward. Despite the scandals, by the end of Grant's second term the corruption in the Departments of Interior (1875), Treasury (1874), and Justice (1875) were cleaned up by his new cabinet members.
Grant's generous treatment of Robert E. Lee at Appomattox helped give him popularity in the South. Although he kept civil rights on the political agenda, the Republican party at the end of Grant's second term shifted to pursuing conservative fiscal policies. His weak response to the Panic of 1873 hurt the economy and seriously damaged his party, which lost heavily in 1874. Grant's financial policies favored Wall Street, but his term ended with the nation mired in a deep economic depression that Grant could not comprehend or deal with. Revisionist historians during the first half of the twentieth century have tended to prop up a romantic view of the Confederacy and the Lost Cause at the expense of downgrading the Union cause and Grant's Presidency as a corrupt despot.
The 20th century historical views of Grant were less favorable. Political analyst Michael Barone noted in 1998 that, "Ulysses S. Grant is universally ranked among the greatest American generals, and his Memoirs are widely considered to belong with the best military autobiographies ever written. But he is inevitably named, by conservatives as well as liberals, as one of the worst presidents in American history." Barone argues that:"This consensus, however, is being challenged by writers outside the professional historians' guild." Barone points to lawyer Frank Scaturro, who led the movement to restore Grant's Tomb while only a college student, and in 1998 wrote the first book of the modern era which portrays Grant's presidency in a positive light. Barone said that Scaturro's work was a "convincing case that Grant was a strong and, in many important respects, successful president. It is an argument full of significance for how we see the course of American political history ... Scaturro's work ... should prompt a reassessment of the entire progressive-New Deal Tradition."
In the 21st Century, Grant's reputation and ranking had significantly increased, that followed a series of positive biographies written by noted historians, that included Jean Edward Smith, Grant,H.W. Brands, The Man Who Saved the Union: Ulysses Grant in War and Peace and most recently Ronald C. White, American Ulysses: A Life of Ulysses S. Grant. Historian Joan Waugh said Grant took steps where a few other presidents attempted "in the areas of Native American policy, civil service reform, and African American rights." Waugh said Grant "executed a successful foreign policy and was responsible for improving Anglo-American relations." Interest in his presidency has also increased by historians, that included Josiah H Bunting III, Ulysses S. Grant: The American Presidents Series: The 18th President.
Historian Robert M. Utley (1984) contended that Grant, as a pragmatist, saw no inconsistencies with dividing up Native American posts among religious leaders and military officers. He added that Grant's "Quaker Policy", despite having good intentions, failed to solve the real dilemma of the misunderstandings between "the motivations, purposes, and ways of thinking" between both White and Native American cultures. These inconsistencies were evident in the breakdown of peace negotiations between the U.S. military and the Modoc tribal leaders during the Modoc War from 1872 to 1873. Historian Robert E. Ficken, points out that the peace policy involved assimilation with the Indians practically forced to engage in farming, rather than hunting, even though much of the reservation land was too barren for farming. The policy also led to boarding schools that have come under intense criticism since the late 20th century. Critics, in addition, note that reformers called for "allotment" (the breakup of an entire reservation so the land would be owned in individual blocks by individual families, who could then resell it to non-Indians) without considering whether it would be beneficial. Ficken concludes that Grant's policy "contained the seeds for its own failure." Historian Cary Collins says Grant's "Peace Policy," failed in the Pacific Northwest chiefly because of sectarian competition and the priority placed on proselytizing by the religious denominations. Historian Robert Keller surveying the Peace policy as a whole concludes that Grant's policy was terminated in 1882, and resulted in "cultural destruction [of] the majority of Indians."
In 1871, Grant's Indian peace policy, enforced and coordinated by Brig. Gen. George Stoneman in Arizona, required the Apache to be put on reservations where they would receive supplies and agriculture education. The Apache slipped out and occasionally raided white settlers. In one raid, believed to have been conducted by Apache warriors, settlers and mail runners were murdered near Tuscan, Arizona. The townspeople traced this raid to Apache reservation from Camp Grant. 500 Apache lived at the Camp Grant near Dudleyville. Angered over the murders, the Tuscan townspeople hired 92 Papago Indians, 42 Mexicans, and 6 whites to take revenge on the Apache. When the war party reached Camp Grant on April 30, they murdered 144 Apaches, mostly women and children, in what became known as the Camp Grant Massacre. Twenty-seven captured Apache children were sold into Mexican slavery. In May, an attempt was made by a small federal military party to capture Apache leader Cochise; during the chase they killed 13 Apache. Grant immediately removed Stoneman of his command in Arizona.
Although Sec. Delano supported and defined Grant's Indian peace policy and was instrumental in the creation of the San Carlos Apache Indian Reservation in 1872, he was not a reformer and was careless in his administration of the Department of the Interior. The previous Grant appointment, Secretary Jacob D. Cox, had run the department with efficiency and merit. Cox had been considered to be one of the best secretaries of Interior in the nation's history. Grant's Secretary of War, William W. Belknap, who was in charge of all Indian Trading posts under the Department of War, received illicit profit payments from the Fort Sill Indian tradership. Sec. Belknap resigned and was replaced by reformer Alphonso Taft. Belknap was impeached by the House; put on trial in the Senate during the Summer of 1876 and acquitted.
Congressional reaction to the losses suffered by Lt. Col. George Armstrong Custer's unit at the Battle of the Little Big Horn in 1876 was shock and dismay at the failure of the Peace Policy. Grant blamed Custer wholly for the defeat stating that the sacrifice of troops was unnecessary. The Indian appropriations measure of August 1876 marked the end of Grant's Peace Policy. The Sioux were given the choice of either selling their lands in the Black Hills for cash or not receiving government gifts of food and other supplies.
Grant appointed four Justices to the Supreme Court of the United States during his presidency. When Grant took office, there were eight seats on the bench. Congress had passed a Judicial Circuits Act in 1866, which provided for the elimination of one seat on the Court each time a justice retired, to prevent Andrew Johnson from nominating replacements for them. In April 1869 Congress passed a Judiciary Act which fixed the size of the Supreme Court at nine.
Grant had the opportunity to fill two Supreme Court seats in 1869. His initial nominees were:
He subsequently submitted two more nominees:
Both men were railroad lawyers, and their appointment led to accusations that Grant intended them to overturn the case of Hepburn v. Griswold, which had been decided the same day they were nominated. That case, which was unpopular with business interests, held that the federal debt incurred before 1862 must be paid in gold, not greenbanks. Nonetheless, both Strong and Bradley were confirmed, and the following year Hepburn was indeed reversed.
Grant had the opportunity to fill two more seats during his second term. To fill the first vacancy he nominated:
In May 1873, Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase died suddenly. Grant initially offered the seat to Senator Roscoe Conkling, who declined, as did Senator Timothy Howe. Grant made three attempts to fill vacancies:
Grant vetoed more bills than any of his predecessors with 93 vetoes during the 41st through 44th Congresses. 45 were regular vetoes, and 48 of them were pocket vetoes. Grant had 4 vetoes overridden by Congress.