by Frank Scaturro of the Grant Monument Association
The Presidency of Ulysses S.
A. First Term, 1869-1873.
1. First inauguration, March 4, 1869. Advocated freedom from sectional
prejudice, resumption of specie payments, restoration of the national
credit, healthy national commerce, reform in national policy toward
American Indians leading to their ultimate citizenship, and ratification
of the Fifteenth Amendment. Grant's
first inaugural address.
2. Signed Public Credit Act, providing that government obligations were
to be paid in gold, March 18, 1869.
3. "Black Friday" financial panic erupted when Jay Gould and Jim Fisk
attempted to corner the gold market, September 24, 1869, but ended when
Grant ordered the sale of government gold to stabilize the market.
4. Following the expulsion of black legislators in Georgia, Grant
requested that state's temporary return to military rule, adding much
needed momentum to efforts to ratify the proposed Fifteenth Amendment.
Issued proclamation celebrating ratification
of the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution, March 30, 1870.
The Fifteenth Amendment states that no citizen
can be denied the right to vote based upon race, color, or previous
condition of servitude.
In this proclamation, Grant called the
amendment "a measure of grander importance than any other one act of the
kind from the foundation of our free government to the present day."
6. Signed first Enforcement Act, which protected the voting rights of
blacks, May 31, 1870.
7. Resisting strong pressure for U.S. military involvement in the Cuban
rebellion, Grant issued an announcement of strict neutrality, June 13,
8. Signed bill creating the Department of Justice under the Attorney
General, June 22, 1870. This marked a major consolidation of the federal
government's power to enforce civil rights.
9. Signed the act establishing the first Civil Service Commission in U.S.
history, March 3, 1871.
10. Grant's "Quaker" Indian Peace Policy:
Grant signed the Indian Appropriation Act,
which established Indians as national wards and nullified Indian
Treaties, March 3, 1871.
A major part of Grant's Peace Policy, this act
caused the government to recognize for the first time the need to insure
the welfare of Indians as individuals rather than as tribal entities.
This was the first step in years of federal
initiatives toward Indian policy reform that ultimately led to the
Under Grant's program, educational and medical
programs were institutionalized in the Interior Department, and tons of
food, clothing, and books were donated by churches and relief organizations
Between 1868 and 1876 the number of houses on
reservations climbed from 7,500 to 56,000. The amount of land under
cultivation increased sixfold. Teachers and schools tripled. Indian
ownership of livestock increased by over fifteen times.
11. Issued proclamation against unlawful combinations in South Carolina,
March 24, 1871.
12. Signed Ku Klux Klan Act, which enabled the president to suspend
habeas corpus to further enforce the Fourteenth and Fifteenth
Amendment rights of southern blacks, April 20, 1871.
13. Enacted successful arbitration of Alabama claim dispute:
This controversy centered around extensive
damage caused by the Alabama, a Confederate warship built in
British shipyards, during the Civil War.
Grant faced strong pressure throughout the
country for war against Great Britain and failure on the part of the
Johnson administration to reach a settlement.
In his Second Annual message, Grant made an
international issue of the dispute and ultimately secured British
cooperation in submitting the matter to its peaceful resolution.
Grant won approval of the resulting Treaty of
Washington, May 8, 1871. This treaty:
a. Ended the threat of war with Britain.
b. Secured an international tribunal that met in Geneva, Switzerland,
to arbitrate the claims. The tribunal awarded the U.S. $15,500,000 for
damages connected with the Alabama Claims.
c. Led to the settlement for the first time in U.S. history of every
standing border dispute.
d. Settled disputes over fishing rights in Canada.
e. Established the principle of international arbitration. This
triggered a movement to seek alternatives to war through arbitration and
to codify international law in order to mitigate the effects of war. A
component of modern peacekeeping efforts, this would eventually be the
principle behind the Hague Conventions, the League of Nations, the World
Court, and the United Nations. John Bassett Moore, the renowned expert in
international law, called this
"the greatest treaty of actual and immediate arbitration the world has
14. Prosecution of the Ku Klux Klan, 1871-1872.
White supremacist terrorists made persistent
attempts throughout Reconstruction to suppress the political rights
of former slaves, most notoriously through the Ku Klux Klan, established
Grant issued a proclamation ordering the Ku
Klux Klan in South Carolina to disperse and surrender arms, October 12,
He suspended the writ of habeas corpus
in nine South Caroline counties, one of the boldest displays of peacetime
presidential power in U.S. history, October 17, 1871.
Following this, Grant sent federal troops to
South Carolina and pursued a prosecution of white supremacist terrorism
that would destroy the Ku Klux Klan by the end of 1872.
15. Grant signed the act establishing Yellowstone as the world's first
national park, March 1, 1872. This was the genesis of the National Park
16. He signed the Amnesty Act, May 22, 1872, which restored civil rights
southerners except certain former Confederate leaders.
Much of the election season was marred by the
Credit Mobilier scandal, which revealed that several congressmen had
taken bribes between 1867 and 1868 during the construction of the Union
Pacific Railroad in exchange for legislation.
Grant's strong civil rights record had forced
the Democratic Party for the first time to accept the finality of the
Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments. This "new departure," however, did
not end their opposition to federal military intervention in the South
A number of elite reformers, who considered
themselves the "best men" for positions in government, embraced civil
service reform, and opposed Grant's Reconstruction policies, formed the
Liberal Republican Party to oppose the president's reelection.
The Democrats and Liberal Republicans nominated
New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley for president.
Grant was reelected by a landslide, November 5,
18. Grant signed the Coinage Act, making gold the sole monetary standard,
B. Grant's Second Administration, 1873-1877
1. In his
second inaugural address, March 4, 1873, Grant
rights legislation for former slaves, the gold standard, domestic and
international commerce, industrial development, and continued reform of
2. He ordered disorderly bands in Louisiana to disperse,
May 22, 1873.
Louisiana, which had a small black majority and
a fragile government, required Grant's military support
throughout his term in order to retain its Republican governors who were
repeatedly threatened within the state.
During his second administration, Grant's
intervention in the South on behalf of blacks became widely unpopular in
both North and South, largely because of racist attitudes throughout the
3. The Panic of 1873 began with the failure of Jay Cooke and Company, a
major New York banking firm, September 18, 1873.
4. Virginius dispute with Spain.
The Virginius, a merchant ship commanded
by Captain John Fry, a U.S. citizen, and flying the American flag, was
captured by the Spanish gunboat Tornado
Claiming that the vessel was aiding Cuban
rebels, Spanish authorities executed Fry, 36 of the crew members, and 16
Resisting intense pressure to declare war on
Spain, Grant secured a successful arbitration of the matter, including an
indemnity and apology from the Spanish government, November 28, 1873.
Authorities later discovered that the
Virginius was owned by Cubans, was illegally registered, and had
no right to fly the American flag.
5. Vetoed inflation of currency bill, April 22, 1874.
This was perhaps the most important of Grant's
94 vetoes, a greater number than all of his predecessors' vetoes combined.
This move began a minor party realignment by
making Republicans the party of "hard money" and paving the way for
the resumption of specie payments.
6. Grant's daughter, Nellie, married Algernon Sartoris in the White
House, on May 21, 1874, in one of the largest Washington social events of
7. Acknowledging the widespread unpopularity of his southern policy,
Grant expressed his continuing commitment to Reconstruction in his
Sixth Annual Message with the following words: "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
8. Ordered disorderly gatherings in Mississippi to disperse, December 21,
Following the mass murder of blacks in
Vicksburg, federal troops restored order and removed a fraudulently
installed Democratic sheriff.
Due to intimidation during the election of
1875, Mississippi would become the only state with a black majority to be
seized by a Democratic (anti-Reconstruction) administration during
9. Signed Specie Resumption Act on January 14, 1875.
This act would help stabilize currency by
reducing greenbacks in circulation and by resuming specie (gold) payments
starting January 1, 1879.
At the time this act went into
effect, the depression that started with the Panic of 1873 came to an
10. Signed the Civil Rights Act, March 1, 1875.
This act prohibited racial segregation in
various modes of public accommodations and transportation and in jury
The most sweeping piece of civil rights
legislation before 1964, this would be ruled unconstitutional by the
Supreme Court in 1883.
While Grant saw this as a stand taken on
principle, the law was unpopular and lamented by many as a move
that would hurt the Republican Party.
Congress would not pass another civil rights
law until 1957.
11. The "Whisky Ring," a conspiracy of whisky distillers who had been
defrauding the government for years, is uncovered, May 1, 1875.
With Grant's support, Secretary of the
Treasury, Benjamin Bristow, secured over 350 indictments.
After someone hinted that Orville Babcock, his
personal secretary, might be among the guilty, Grant stated, "Let no
guilty man escape if it can avoided ... No personal consideration should
stand in the way of performing a public duty."
Weighing the evidence, Grant later defended
Babcock, who was acquitted of the questionable charges against him due to
a lack of evidence.
12. Ordered white terrorist "rifle clubs" in South Carolina to disperse,
October 17, 1876.
13. Election of 1876.
Republican Rutherford B. Hayes faced Democrat
Samuel J. Tilden.
Grant utilized troops to protect the rights of
black voters in South Carolina and Louisiana, both of which had black
majorities and were holding gubernatorial elections.
a. Elections in both states were disputed, but the Republican
candidates would be inaugurated.
b. Grant sustained both governors until the end of his term.
14. Presidential electoral crisis, 1876-1877.
Louisiana, South Carolina, Florida, and Oregon
all submitted two sets of electoral returns, one by the Democrats and one
by the Republicans, bringing the presidential election into dispute.
Facing this unprecedented controversy in which
the nation was unsure who, if either candidate, would be inaugurated in
March, a crisis developed.
Grant supported the establishment of an
electoral commission to decide the dispute, though playing no role in its
a. In a controversial move, the Commission decided that Hayes had won
the electoral votes of all four states, giving him the presidency by one
b. In the Compromise of 1877 Democrats agreed to recognize Hayes in
exchange for an assurance by Republicans that the new president would
end intervention in the South.
Grant was widely credited for preserving the
peace during this crisis and silently prepared troops to prevent any
a. Hayes was peacefully inaugurated on March 5, 1877.
b. One of Hayes' first actions was the withdrawal of the last
remaining federal troops in the South from South Carolina, Louisiana,
and Florida, thus ending Reconstruction.
c. The Republican regimes of all three states collapsed, and the
"Solid South" was born.
d. With the end of Reconstruction, the government had repudiated
Grant's policy, and subsequent decades would see a new era of
disenfranchisement and segregation sweep the South until the 20th century
Civil Rights Movement.