The 18th president of the United States of America, a Republican.

Born in Point Pleasant, Ohio on April 27, 1822. Died of throat cancer, at Mt. McGregor, Saratoga County, New York, July 23, 1885. Interred (but not buried, per se) in the General Grant Memorial, a.k.a "Grant's Tomb", New York City.

A graduate of West Point, and a veteran of the Mexican wars. He left the army but rejoined to fight in the American Civil War.

As a Brigadier general, he won the Union's first major victory at Fort Henry, later success at the Battle of Shiloh, the Siege of Vicksburg and the Battle of Chattanooga split the South's forces and led to Union victory. He accepted Confederate General Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox in April 1865.

As President of the United States from 1869 to 1877 he rebuilt the U.S. after the war. After leaving office, lost his fortune and developed the throat cancer which would kill him, but wrote a 2-volume Civil war memoir.

Grant was also known as the "Savior of the Union", the "Lion of Vicksburg", and "The Austerlitz of American Politics". His stern, bearded portrait appears on the U.S. $50 bill. He also appeared on $1 and $5 silver certificates in 1887-1927.

Grant on the causes of the American Civil War: excerpted from his Personal Memoirs, Chapter 16 (public domain, published 1885, from the Penguin Classics edition of 1999).


Up to the Mexican War there were a few out and out abolitionists, men who carried their hostility to slavery into all elections, from those for a justice of the peace up to the Presidency of the United States. They were noisy but not numerous. But the great majority of people at the North, where slavery did not exist, were opposed to the institution, and looked upon its existence in any part of the country as unfortunate. They did not hold the States where slavery existed responsible for it; and believed that protection should be given to the right of property in slaves until some satisfactory way could be reached to be rid of the institution. Opposition to slavery was not a creed of either political party. In some sections more anti-slavery men belonged to the Democratic party, and in others to the Whigs. But with the inauguration of the Mexican war, in fact with the annexation of Texas, "the inevitable conflict" commenced.

As the time for the Presidential election of 1856 -- the first at which I had the opportunity of voting -- approached, party feeling began to run high. The Republican party was regarded in the South and the border States not only as opposed to the extension of slavery, but as favoring the compulsory abolition of the institution without compensation to the owners. The most horrible visions seemed to present themselves to the minds of people who, one would suppose, ought to have known better. Many educated and, otherwise, sensible persons appeared to believe that emancipation meant social equality. Treason to the Government was openly advocated and was not rebuked. It was evident to my mind that the election of a Republican President in 1856 meant the secession of all the Slave States, and rebellion. Under these circumstances I preferred the success of a candidate whose election would prevent or postpone secession, to seeing the country plunged into a war the end of which no man could fortell. With a Democrat elected by the unanimous vote of the Slave States, there could be no pretext for secession for four years. I very much hoped that the passions of the people would subside in that time, and the catastrophe be averted altogether; if it was not, I believed the country would be better prepared to receive the shock and to resist it. I therefore voted for James Buchanan for President. Four years later the Republican party was successful in electing its candidate to the Presidency. The civilized world has learned the consequence. Four millions of human beings held as chattels have been liberated; the ballot has been given to them; the free schools of the country have been opened to their children. The nation still lives, and the people are just as free to avoid social intimacy with the blacks as ever they were, or as they are with white people....

The Republican candidate was elected, and solid substantial people of the North-west, and I presume the same order of people throughout the entire North, felt very serious, but determined, after this event. It was very much discussed whether the South would carry out its threat to secede and set up a separate government, the corner-stone of which should be, protection to the "Divine" institution of slavery. For there were people who believed in the "divinity" of human slavery, as there are now people who believe Mormonism and Polygamy to be ordained by the Most High. We forgive them for entertaining such notions, but forbid their practice. It was generally believed that there would be a flurry; that some of the extreme Southern States would go so far as to pass ordinances of secession. But the common impression was that this step was so plainly suicidal for the South, that the movement would not spread over much of the territory and would not last long.

Doubtless the founders of our government, the majority of them at least, regarded the confederation of the colonies as an experiment. Each colony considered itself a separate government; that the confederation was for mutual protection against a foreign foe, and the prevention of strife and war among themselves. If there had been a desire on the part of any single State to withdraw from the compact at any time with the number of States was limited to the original thirteen, I do not suppose the would have been any to contest the right, no matter how much the determination might have been regretted. The problem changed on the ratification of the Constitution, it certainly ceased on the formation of new States, as least so far as the new States themselves were concerned. It was never possessed at all by Florida or the States west of the Mississippi, all of which were purchased by the treasury of the entire nation. Texas and the territory brought into the Union in consequence of annexation, were purchased with both blood and treasure; and Texas, with a domain greater than that of any European state except Russia, was permitted to retain as state property all the public lands within its borders. It would have been ingratitude and injustice of the most flagrant sort for this State to withdraw from the Union after all that had been spent and done to introduce her; yet, if separation had actually occurred, Texas must necessarily have gone with the South, both on account of her institutions and her geographical position. Secession was illogical as well as impracticable; it was revolution.

Now, the right of revolution is an inherent one. When people are oppressed by their government, it is a natural right they enjoy to relieve themselves of the oppression, if they are strong enough, either by withdrawal from it, or by overthrowing it and substituting a government more acceptable. But any people or part of a people who resort to this remedy, stake their lives, their property, and every claim for protection given by citizenship -- on the issue. Victory, or the conditions imposed by the conqueror -- must be the result.

In the case of the war between the States, it would have been the exact truth if the South had said, -- "We do not want to live with you Northern people any longer; we know our institution of slavery is obnoxious to you, and, as you are growing numerically stronger than we, it may at some time in the future be endangered. So long as you permitted us to control the government, and with the aid of a few friends at the North to enact laws constituting your section a guard against the escape of our property, we were willing to live with you. You have been submissive to our rule heretofore; but it looks now as if you did not intend to continue so, and we will remain in the Union no longer." Instead of this the seceding States cried lustily, -- "Let us alone; you have no constitutional power to interfere with us..." Individuals might ignore the constitution; but the Nation itself must not only obey it, but must enforce the strictest construction of that instrument; the construction put upon it by the Southerners themselves. The fact is the constitution did not apply to any such a contingency as the one existing from 1861 to 1865. Its framers never dreamed of such a contingency occurring. If they had forseen it, the probabilities are they would have sanctioned the right of a State or States to withdraw rather than that there should be war between brothers....

There is little doubt in my mind now that the prevailing sentiment of the South would have been opposed to secession in 1860 and 1861, if there had been a fair and calm expression of opinion, unbiased by threats, and if the ballot of one legal voter had counted for as much as that of any other. But there was no calm discussion of the question. Demagogues who were too old to enter the army if there should be a war, others who entertained so high an opinion of their own ability that they did not believe they could be spared from the direction of the affairs of state in such an event, declaimed vehemently and unceasingly against the North, against its aggressions upon the South; its interference with Southern rights, etc., etc. They denounced the Northerners as cowards, poltroons, Negro-worshippers; claimed that one Southern man was equal to five Northern men in battle; that if the South would stand up for its rights the North would back down. Mr. Jefferson Davis said in a speech, delivered at La Grange, Mississippi, before the secession of that State, that he would agree to drink all the blood spilled south of Mason and Dixon's line if there should be a war. The young men who would have the fighting to do in case of war, believed all these statements, both in regard to the aggressiveness of the North and its cowardice. They, too, cried out for a separation from such people. The great bulk of the legal voters of the South were men who owned no slaves; their homes were generally in the hills and poor country; their facilities for educating their children, even up to the point of reading and writing, were very limited; their interest in the contest was very meagre -- what there was, if they had been capable of seeing it, was with the North; they too needed emancipation. Under the old regime they were looked down upon by those who controlled all the affairs in the interest of slave owners, as poor white trash who were allowed the ballot so long as they cast it according to direction.

I am aware that this last statement may be disputed and individual testimony perhaps adduced to show that in ante-bellum days the ballot was as untrammelled in the South as in any section of the country; but in the face of any such contradiction I reassert the statement. The shot-gun was not resorted to. Masked men did not ride over the country at night intimidating voters; but there was a firm feeling that a class existed in every State with a sort of divine right to control public affairs. If they could not get this control by one means they must by another. The end justified the means. The coercion, if mild, was complete.


Notes: Grant's views are clearly his opinion, and as in all things, the victor writes history (literally, in this case). Slavery was the major factor in causing the south to secede. See A Declaration of the Immediate Causes which Induce and Justify Secession of the State of Mississippi. The North was right to interrupt and destroy that absurd and morally bankrupt practice in the United States. But there were other causes, with state sovereignty (States' Rights) being one, the onerous (to the South) protectionist tariffs against European goods (e.g. the Tariff of Abominations of 1828) another.

I disagree with the implication in the last two paragraphs above, that the Confederate soldiers sent into battle were unwitting pawns, sheep led to the slaughter by confederate leaders. Perhaps there is some truth to this, but it is a universal truth, not unique to the southern side. Moral sentiment was no different in the North, despite their cause being opposite. Demagogues were not unique to the South, either. Wars throughout history have been initiated by men who, in their arrogance, claim a "divine right" to wage war. The Civil War was not the last time this happened, nor will it cease to happen again any time soon.

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