Although Ulysses S. Grant's contemporaries placed him in the highest position of great Americans along with George Washington and Abraham Lincoln, the twentieth century has seen him fade. His presidency has been almost universally condemned, and he is consistently ranked second to rock bottom Warren G. Harding in polls of historians to rate the presidents.
Although his military reputation has declined as well, it nevertheless continues to win him a steady following. Even his most faithful admirers, however, tend to end their studies conveniently at Appomattox, and one senses a wide regret that Grant's public career extended beyond the Civil War. Taking note of this trend, John Y. Simon observes that some biographers "seem to have wished that Grant had accepted Lincoln's invitation to Ford's Theatre" on the night the president was shot- the night that John Wilkes Booth had intended to assassinate Grant along with Lincoln.
Much of what has been passed down as an objective appraisal of Grant's presidency more closely resembles the partisan critiques that were produced by a relatively small group of performers during the 1870's-- in many ways the intellectual ancestors of the present historical profession. Although such a minority can sometimes be a source of enlightenment, in this case, it has contributed a monolithic picture of a complex era that is about as depressing as it is inaccurate. Little consideration is given the checkered nature of Grant's eight years of the Gilded Age. Michael Les Benedict observes that Grant "dominated his era, a stronger resident than most have recognized".
In both the domestic and foreign realms, President Grant could claim a wide range of achievements. In the aftermath...
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... the corruption / civil service reform issue was more important than such issues as Reconstruction, international crises, Indian affairs, and the multitude of economic matters, all combined. As William B. Hesseltine admits in his definitive study of President Grant, "Grant's enemies....stuffed the ballot boxes of history against Grant..."
Garland, Hamlin. Ulysses S. Grant; his life and character. New York: Doubleday & McClure Co., 1898.
King, Charles. The True Ulysses S. Grant. Philadelphia, London, J.B. Lippincott Company, 1914.
Ringwalt, J. Luther (John Luther) Anecdotes of General Ulysses S. Grant illustrating his military and political career and his personal traits. Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott Co., 1886.
Richardson, Albert D. (Albert Deane). A personal history of Ulysses S. Grant. Hartford, Conn.: American Publishing Company, 1868.
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