Grant, Ulysses Simpson: Presidency


Grant at first seemed to favor the Reconstruction policy of President Andrew Johnson, but grew to differ with Johnson as his policies increasingly tolerated the injustices and violence former slaves experienced in the South. In Apr., 1867, Johnson appointed him interim Secretary of War, replacing Edwin Stanton. Johnson expected him to hold the office against Stanton and thus bring about a test of the constitutionality of the Tenure of Office Act, but Grant turned the office back to Stanton when the Senate refused to sanction Stanton's removal. It was apparent then that the general had thrown his lot in with the radical Republicans. The inevitable choice of the Republicans for President, Grant was victorious over the Democratic candidate, Horatio Seymour, in 1868.

Although his administrations were marred by the corruption of some of his appointees, especially in his second term, they were also noteworthy for his support for the Reconstruction program favored by the radical Republicans, which was pushed with new vigor. Grant's efforts to secure black civil rights, however, were unfairly maligned by many Southern whites—who supported the black codes and other segregation laws and had supported or tolerated the violence of the Ku Klux Klan—and by those who regarded African Americans as racially inferior. Legislation favorable to commercial and industrial interests was passed (see greenback). The President associated with disreputable politicians and financiers; James Fisk and Jay Gould sought to deceive him when they tried to corner the gold market in 1869 (see Black Friday). In foreign affairs, much was accomplished by the able Secretary of State, Hamilton Fish.

The party unanimously renominated Grant in 1872, and he was reelected easily over Horace Greeley, the candidate of the Liberal Republican party and the Democrats. Toward the end of his second term his Secretary of War, William W. Belknap, and his private secretary, Orville E. Babcock, were implicated in graft scandals. Through the loyalty of the deceived Grant, both escaped punishment.

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