A Grant Letter on Slavery

Among the letters that did not make it into the first run of the Grant papers was this letter from the general to Garibaldi Ross, written on September 11, 1880.

Grant 1880 letter 1

Grant 1880 letter 2

The letter is noteworthy for what it says about Julia Grant’s views on slavery … and offers a little more evidence that her father never relinquished title to his slaves to Julia, even if he allowed her use of several slaves in the 1850s.

Julia’s own views on slavery in later years embraced a golden time on the Dent plantation, so it is interesting to compare the idea that the Dent slaves were well-treated and part of a happy place while at the same time condemning the institution in the abstract.


7 thoughts on “A Grant Letter on Slavery

  1. Mike Stevens September 1, 2013 / 4:38 am

    Long time lurker, grateful for your blog, positive memories of meeting you when you were a guest of Central Virginia Battlefields Trust in Fredericksburg a number of years ago. This letter is in my collection, and I thank you for sharing it with the group.

    Mike Stevens
    Fredericksburg, VA

  2. M.D. Blough September 1, 2013 / 9:42 am

    This is an important addition to the Grant record. Thank you, Brooks.

  3. jfepperson September 1, 2013 / 10:47 am

    So, is this going to be put into an “Addenda”-style volume at the end of the papers? I would think it should.

    Other than the comments on slavery, I liked the way Grant spoke/wrote to the youngster.

  4. Noma September 1, 2013 / 1:39 pm

    “……[she] always owned slaves – *as* her father did”

    I note two other words in that paragraph: “our” and “was.” To me, what is interpreted here to be “as” looks a lot more like “or” since the final consonant is not clearly articulated as an “s.”

    It seems like the sentence should be interpreted to be “…[she] always owned slaves – *or* [that is to say] her father did.” Changes the meaning somewhat.

    • Brooks D. Simpson December 9, 2015 / 3:08 am

      I’ve always read it as “or.” I don’t think the transcription offered was correct. Thus my comment.

  5. John Randolph September 1, 2013 / 2:27 pm

    Grant’s letter offers an interesting insight into his (and Julia’s) retrospective views regarding the peculiar institution of slavery. I was also fascinated to find out that Garibaldi’s father was Milton Alexander Ross, a Canadian abolitionist who played a part in operating the Underground Railroad.

  6. Margot Darby (@margotdarby) September 5, 2013 / 7:16 pm

    No whinging or rhetoric here, no vindictiveness toward the slaveowners, no cant or theatricality, no mawkishness on the slave issue. Very U.S. Grant. Ah yes.

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