On Ulysses S. Grant

Here’s a discussion of Grant between Douglas Brinkley and John Marszalek. Although this is supposed to be about Grant as president, it’s both more and less than that.



One thought on “On Ulysses S. Grant

  1. Laqueesha August 2, 2015 / 12:19 pm

    I know it might be biased, okay, it most likely is, but I can say, with a reasonable degree of certainty, that U.S. Grant is one of my top favorite U.S. presidents. Abe Lincoln of course being the first. Indeed, my top three favorite Americans from the 19th century, or perhaps even all time, would probably have to be Abe Lincoln, U.S. Grant, and Frederick Douglass.

    Frederick Douglass said of Grant that he was “too broad for prejudice”. He said that he was impressed by Grant and admired him, not just for his fine military prowess as a professional soldier, but for his ability to rise above and show “superiority to popular prejudice”, which manifested in his support to arm the slaves and make them into American soldiers, much to the objections of many at the time.

    Indeed, the slave was made into a soldier, to fight for the American cause of Union and liberty, and, as President James A. Garfield, another great man, said, said slaves were smart enough to know that “the destiny of his race was involved in it. He was intelligent enough to be true to that Union which his educated and traitorous master was endeavoring to destroy. He came to us in the hour of our sorest need, and by his aid, under God, the Republic was saved.”

    The Republic was saved, thanks, in no small part, to the efforts of slaves-turned-American soldiers, which proved “his manhood, and his capacity as an infantry soldier”, in the words of the Secretary of War. The Republic was also saved, in no small part as well, to the soldiering of “the greatest captain of our age” in General U.S. Grant, who commanded the free armies of America to destroy the armies of a despicable regime built on murder, prejudiced bigotry, and human enslavement.

    Grant fought for the cause of America, described aptly in the American constitution as forming “a more perfect union”. Indeed, along with the efforts of Abe Lincoln, by freeing the slave from cruel bondage and by crushing the insurrectionists who sought to overthrow a free republicanism in favor of autocratic aristocracy, he did just that.

    With the slave freed from bondage, and the so-called “Confederacy” of Davis and Toombs, based upon the idea that human beings should, as Frederick Douglass said, “be slaves, and slaves forever” simply for the color of their skin, “battered to pieces and scattered to the four winds”, the Union was made more perfect. Not fully perfect, but more perfect than it had been before, for the “stain” of humans being “bought and sold like cattle”, as Grant said to Otto von Bismarck, was gone.

    As a reluctant president, Grant knew that the greatest challenge facing America, then, and perhaps even now, which prevented it from reaching a “happy unity and love of country” was what he called, “the prejudice to color”. He said that “The prejudice is a senseless one, but it exists”. He asked the people of America to “treat the Negro as a citizen and a voter, as he is and must remain” for they were “as much citizens under the Constitution as if their skins were white”.

    Unfortunately, the country did not heed his words, and after 1877, followed a near century of brutal oppression and sheer terror towards the freed slaves and their descendants, carried out by the former members of the Confederacy and their descendants. Though, justice ultimately prevailed, as it surely almost always does and should.

    Ultimately, Grant envisioned an America that was divided “divided not on the color line, but on principle”, where, like Lincoln said while channeling the Founders, “All men were created equal”.

    150 years after the Grant magnanimously received the wicked Confederacy’s surrender at Appomattox, 150 years after the Thirteenth Amendment freed the slave from bondage and ended, what Grant called a gross “stain on the Union”, and earned America the “respect, if not the friendship, of all civilized nations”, we have frustratingly yet to fully reach the goal Grant spoke of in 1874. But, we have made great strides along the way. In pursuit of that goal, not just of an America divided by principle and not on the “color-line”, but in the pursuit of a more perfect Union, we may take steps backwards and fall down, as we did in 1877, 1890, and 1895, but we can take steps forward in the attainment of that goal, as we did in 1776, 1787, 1865, and 1945. One day, how far off in the future nobody can know for certain, America will still be divided, but not on the “color-line”. It will instead be divided on “principle”, as Grant said in 1874. That healthy division, where free men and women are able to resolve their qualms peacefully, and in the name of fraternal commonality as members of the human race, to better their condition. As Lincoln said at New Haven in March of 1860, “that is the true system”.

    One day, this glorious Union of ours, will be made perfect, and we will have that “happy unity and love of country” that Grant spoke of, with that despicable “prejudice to color” and all other bigotries and prejudices like it, having been eradicated off the face of the Earth forever by the forces of goodness and justice.

    Let us hope that day is nearer rather than farther, not just for the sake of America, but for all humankind. To honor those no longer with us, to serve those that are here, and to make this world a better place, for those yet to be born.

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