by John Page

A part of his personality that is often overlooked, by historians, was Grant’s love of peace and desire to live a good life. [1] While he had become famous as a warrior, the impression one gets from looking at his actions throughout his life is that he had wished for life to be peaceful and only did was he thought would bring about a greater peace. If what he was saying about himself was honest then that would show that when he campaigned on the slogan “Let us have peace” this was what he really wants for the nation even if there were flaws in that peace.

Perhaps this is why Grant stumbled as a president, as his desire for peace caused him to make misjudgments about what his opponents were willing to do to maintain or to regain their political power. This attitude made Grant seem more humble and down to Earth. This is the part of Grant that those who think highly of him focus on. His mix of humbleness, idealism and desire for peace and plenty for all are highlighted now, while the less savory parts of his administration are overlooked.  This is also the Grant that Grant himself would like to be remembered as.

What happen to Grant’s reputation after the war? One reason why Grant’s memory has improved is how the contemporary world has a different idea of the past. Americans today want to look for heroes that fought for what is held to be right today, equality for everyone regardless of skin color. Grant’s role in fighting for African-American suffrage is something that is praised now; the emphasis is on justice for all and not a white-reconciliation. Older historian’s claims of Grant’s weakness in office might reflect fears of White Southerners about their future or more recent political struggles. How Grant was talked about was influenced by the historians own concerns. Attacking or defending Grant often served a larger political goal.[2]

Today those concerns are not part of the American mindset as much as the issues of Grant’s administration are too far in the past. It is hard to see what someone can gain politically by making Grant look bad in the same way a contemporary of him might try to. It is now easier for a modern historian to look at the past and see the long term effects of Grant’s actions. Grant is also still seen more a solider than a statesman in the present day. His role as a political leader is mostly overlooked. Historians most look more at the whole of Grant’s life and not just one part of it. Biographies about him focus on what he did well and most try to go around his flaws.[3]

By looking at the fortunes of one individual, a larger picture of the world around them can be analyzed. We can see what factors allowed that person to succeed and which ones prevented them from doing a certain action. A political leader can be a good example of this, as their life by their position will cause the social forces to function in more identifiable ways. Ulysses S. Grant had been shaped by the rising American power as much as he helped advance it. He became identified with the cause of the North as a whole. Grant had struggles with those with different ideas of the nation’s next stage, like all presidents in office. He was in charge during a very difficult time for the country and had to deal with complex issues that involved race, nationality and economics. In order to balance different objects Grant was overwhelmed by conflicting demands. Grant had wanted to act in a way that would benefit everyone.

He was unable to do this as his policies were overtaken by scandals and lack of a full plan. Grant’s reputation was hurt after his presidency by this failure; Americans appreciated his role as a general but dismissed his presidency as an overall failure. Grant’s efforts produced some very important changes in American history such as ensuring that the rights of minorities were protected and reunite the nation after the Civil War.  This is being recognized more by historians of the present day.






  1. Abbot, Philip. Bad Presidents: Failure in the White House. New York: St. Martin’s Press. 2013
  2. Ballard, Michael B. Vicksburg: The Campaign that Opened the Mississippi. The University of North Carolina Press.2004
  3. Branam, Chris W. “The Africans Have Taken Arkansas: Political Activities of African Americans in the Reconstruction Legislature.” Arkansas Historical Quarterly 73, no 3 (2014): 233-267.
  4. Brands, Henry William. The Man Who Saved the Union. New York: Doubleday. 2012
  5. Campbell, Jacqueline G. “The Most Diabolical Act of All the Barbarous War’: Soldiers, Civilians, and the Burning of Columbia, February 1865.” American Nineteenth Century History 3, no. 3 (2002): 53-72.
  6. Doss, Harriet E. Amos. 2002. “Commerce, Nationalism, and Unionism: Mobilians’ Observances of the Death of U.S. Grant.” Alabama Review 55, no 2 (2002).
  7. Grant, S. Ulysses. The Personal Memories of Ulysses S. Grant . New York. 1885
  8. Hessltinw, William.. Ulysses S. Grant Politician. New York: Dod, Mead and Company. 1935
  9. III, Ulysses. S Grant. 1953. “General Ulysses S. Grant: A Close-Up.” Military Affairs 17 (2): 59-71.
  10. Rafuse, Ethan S. “Still a Mystery? General Grant and the Historians,.” The Journal of Military History 71, no, 3. (2007): 849-874.
  11. Sexton, Jay. “The United States, the Cuban Rebellion, and the Multilateral Initiative of 1875.” Diplomatic History 30 no. 3, (2006) 335-365.
  12. Sim, David. “The Peace Policy of Ulysses S. Grant.” American Nineteenth Century History 9 no. 3, (2008): 241-268.
  13. Waugh, Joan.. U.S. Grant. University of North Carolina. 2009
  14. William, Davis. Crucible of Command: Ulysses S. Grant and Robert E. Lee- The War They Fought, the Peace They Forged. Da Capo Press. 2014
  15. Wilson, Woodrow. Division and Reunion 1829-1889. New York: Albert Bushnell Hart. Logs, Green and Co. 1893

[1] Grant 3rd , 68

[2]  Sims, 250

[3] Waugh,  1

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