the tainted presidency of ulysses grant -- 11/20/17
Today's selection -- from The Unexpected President by Scott S. Greenberger. The tainted presidency of Civil War hero Ulysses S. Grant:
"If Ulysses S. and his wife, Julia,] were especially joyful in the White House, it was because they could remember much leaner times: less than a decade before moving into the Executive Mansion, Grant was working as a clerk in his father's leather goods store, scrabbling to survive [after a string of failed businesses and a stint in the military]. ...
"[Abraham] Lincoln also transcended a humble background to reach the White House, but he traveled a steady upward trajectory, from lawyer to congressman to president. Grant's sudden rise from clerk to national icon left him with feelings of inferiority and a deep suspicion of men who were more educated or talented. As president he was vulnerable to the wiles of men on the make, politicians and businessmen who were newly arrived, as he was. 'Selfish men and ambitious men got the ear of that simple and confiding president,' wrote George Hoar, a Massachusetts congressman of the period. 'They studied Grant, some of them, as the shoemaker measures the foot of his customer.'
|Cartoon showing Ulysses S. Grant, as an acrobat, on trapeze "third
term" holding on to "whiskey ring" and "Navy ring" with strap
"corruption" in his mouth.
"The times demanded a president of sterner stuff. ... Railroad and mining titans boasted of the legislatures and judges they bought as they carved out empires from the public domain. ...
"From the beginning, Grant's administration was tainted by scandal. In the summer of 1869, Jay Gould, Jim Fisk Jr., and Abel Rathbone Corbin, a corrupt lobbyist who was the president's brother-in-law, tried to corner the New York gold market. Grant was warned of the conspiracy but failed to act before hundreds were financially ruined. Credit Mobilier, a construction company for the Union Pacific Railroad that received loans and land grants from the government, bribed members of Congress before Grant took office, but by 1873 it had been revealed that Schuyler Colfax, Grant's first vice president, and Henry Wilson, his second, were among the lawmakers who had accepted the money. Robert C. Schenck, Grant's minister to Great Britain, sold his name to the shady operators of the Emma Silver-Mining Company of Utah, who used it to market company shares in Britain. English investors howled when the mine went under -- just after Schenck sold his shares at a high price.
"The putrid carcasses kept hobbing to the surface: a congressional investigation found James F. Casey, another Grant brother-in-law, guilty of gross misconduct as collector of customs in New Orleans; Secretary of the Treasury William A. Richardson turned a contract for the collection of delinquent taxes into an extortion racket; Attorney General George H. Williams, who bungled the Credit Mobilier investigation, spent Department of Justice money to buy an expensive carriage for his wife; and Secretary of the Navy George M. Robeson grew rich from naval contracts.
"Grant had learned in the army never to desert a man under fire, so rather than dismissing these rogues, he defended them. As the mayhem swirled around him, he went on smoking his black cigars, driving his four-in-hands, and relaxing at his summer cottage in Long Branch, New Jersey, from June to October."