tv Lectures in History CSPAN February 17, 2016 1:18am-2:44am EST
donald trump will address supporters at a rally. we will take you there live at 5:00 p.m. eastern. then to chapin, where marco rubio talks to voters. that's live at 6:00 p.m. eastern also on c-span. american history tv on c-span3, features programs that tell the american story. this weekend we continue our special series on the 1966 vietnam hearings, 50 years later. we will hear a special consultant to president johnson followed by committee member questions. >> our purpose is equally clear and easily defined. in his speech of april 7, 1965, president johnson did so in the following terms. our objective is the independence of south vietnam and its freedom from attack. we want nothing for ourselves. only that the people of south vietnam be allowed to guide
their own country in their own way. this has been our basic objective since 1954. it has been pursued by three successive administrations and remains our basic objective today. >> next saturday, secretary the state gives his testimony it's about 90 minutes. >> good afternoon. thanks for coming out for
today's lecture here at the naval war college. it's my honor and privilege to introduce to you professor charles calhoon from the eastern carolina university to talk on grant's presidency. with that, will turn it over to him at this time. hold all your questions until the end. thank you. >> thank you very much. thank you all for being here today. i would like also to thank professor john scott who could not be here today. he is in hawaii missing the snow here in rhode island. i know he did a lot of background work on this as well. as the professor indicated, i'm going to be talking today about the presidency of grant. his leadership in the white house. and i have a couple of caveats to share with you before i begin the meat of the talk. first of all, i am a political historian, not a military historian. most of you in this room know more about grant's military
career, particularly after taking this course, than i do. my specialty is late 19th century american politics. the second caveat is the fact that i'm writing a book on the presidency of ulysses s. grant for the university press of kansas. it is still very much a work in progress. i haven't figured out everything about this man in the white house. perhaps that's an impossibility. so some of things i will be saying today are tentative in nature, shall we say. we don't have time today to go through an entire chronology of the events in grant's very busy two terms in the white house. instead, what i would like to do today is to raise a few points about how to look at the grant presidency. first to say something about history, how has he been treated in the past. i will be brief about that. then take a look at some of the problems confronting the country when he became president.
some endured during his presidency. then i would like to discuss with you a bit about some of the assets that he brought to the office of president that helped him succeed. not only person assets but also some imbedded in the culture in which he was operating. the flip side of that, i would like to talk a little bit about some of the liabilities that he confronted both personal and conte contextual as well. and say a few words about his achievements in the white house and then a little bit about his impact on the evolution of the office of president. first of all, grant has had a fairly bad press as president ever since he was in the white house. the view really started even before he took office. the standard view was that he performed badly and was criticized. the truth of the matter is that there were some people who were ready to criticize him even before he became president. i could name names here. one is charles sumner who may
have been disappointed he wasn't appointed secretary of state of the he was a critic of grant until he died in 1874. he was always criticizing grant for things that he thought were not being handled properly. another critic was henry adams. he was turned off by the johnson administration and even before grant became president he had vowed to write articles exposing corruption in the government. so he was ready for bear even before grant put his hand on the bible on march 4, 1869 to become president. throughout his term, henry adams wrote quite critical articles about him. if you have ever had the education of henry adams, you know grant comes off there very badly as well. these men thought that grant was a liar, he was vulgar, he was low in his instincts, he was stupid, he was conniving. very nasty portrait of grant in
the white house. he also suffered i would say the president did from the partisan journalism of the time. that's par for the course for a president. but it was severe in grant's time. some of the newspapers, particularly democratic newspapers, gave him a very hard time. congressional investigations, again, once the democrats got control of the house of representatives, severely investigated and criticized grant's performance. the significance of this is that these critics' comments and notions about grant became imbedded in the literature -- the historical literature of the most of the 20th century. historians doing their work in the first 75 or so years of the 20th century began when they looked back at the grant administration, they tended to pay more attention to what his enemies said about him than really about what he had accomplished in the white house.
if you look at the presidential polls that were conducted at the beginning of 1948, these were polls conducted among historians and political scientists, journalists and others. you see that grant tended to rank quite low in those polls. never rock bottom. that was reserved for andrew johnson or james buchanan, but nonetheless quite low. reflecting the scholarly image of grant over the years, the scholarly criticism of him. about 25, 30 years ago, there began to be something of a rehabilitation of the scholarship on grant, grant's reputation in the scholarship. that was due largely i think to the civil rights movement, the developments in civil rights in the 20th century. grant came to be seen in many historians' views and others as a defender of civil rights.
hence his estimate has tended to rise ever since that time. again, if you look at those presidential assessment polls, if you will, you can see grant in the latter ones ranking somewhere in the middle. never into the top five or even the top ten. but certainly doing much better than he had when the polls were first beginning around the middle of the 20th century. so grant has had an evolving impression or reputation, shall we say, among historians and other scholars. what kind of problems did grant face when he became president? the most significant domestic problem, of course, was the question of reconstruction. what to do about the south and what to do about race relations in the south. grant liked to refer to this problem as the efforts to secure the results of the war. this was a question of enormous
difficulty. not only because of the problems in the south, but also because the approach to reconstruction in the immediate post-war years was the subject of great ra wrangl wrangling between the president and andrew johnson. looking at this as an institutional struggle between the president and congress. one of the tasks grant confronted was not only trying to fortify reconstruction efforts of the south to uphold the rights of the former slaves and so forth, but also to try to rebalance and recalibrate the relations with the congress. and that was a very tall order. another problem that resulted from the civil war related to the nation's finances. during the civil war, the united states government, of course, needed to raise very large sums of money. and it passed a tremendous new
load of taxes, tariffs were raised, internal taxes were raised, excise taxes and income tax, inheritance taxes. federal government taxed anything that moved during the civil war. wasn't enough to cover the cost of the war. so the government also engaged in heavy borrowing, selling bonds and so the national debt was something like $2 billion at the end of the war. which seems like chicken feed to us today. but it was an enormous sum of money at that time. the question was, what kind of program could the government put in place to begin to pay that back? borrowing wasn't even enough either if the government got into the business of simple printing money, the so-called green backs, unbacked by gold or silver. the question remains, what are we going to with that money? are we going to get it back to where we would pay gold and silver for it? the question was there. there are financial issues
related to the war that grant would confront in the white house. there were problems on the frontier, of course, with native americans. the indians. this was as old as the country. there was nothing new in grant's era. in grant's time, the mistreatment of the indians was continuing. you had the clashes between white settlers moving westward and indians clinging to the their traditional ways. this was something that grant felt very deeply about and was one of the major problems that he tried to deal with as president. in dealing with the problems, i submit that grant did have available to him a certain group of assets that he could bring to bear. some of them were personal to himself. others i think were more institutional or contextual, if you will. we will take a look at the personal ones first. first of all, grant had experience as an administrator. that came from his war years. not only the civil war but in
the mexican war. in the mexican war, he was in the quarter master corps and learned how to organize in that situation, learned how to -- learned the value of supply lines and so forth. this was important. he honed his organizational skills in that role. but of course the most important experience was his command during the civil war. those commands became larger until, of course, the last year or so he was head of all the union armies. this is very important experience for him to carry into the white house. he learned how to run a huge organization. he learned how to see the big picture. he learned how to delegate tasks to achieve his goals. when he was running for president in 1868, the chicago tribune ran an editorial and compared him to other candidates who had, say, legislative experience in the congress or
judicial experience in the supreme court justice people were thinking about for president. they said, grant was superior to them because of his military experience. the reason for that was that his military experience was primarily executive. not judicial, not legislative, but executive. that's what was needed in the white house. so that was an important asset for him. he also had a great sense of determination to see things through to a successful conclusion. this is something that was with him all his life. if you had a chance to read his memoirs, you see that he states that he never liked retracing his steps. he never liked going backward. he always wanted to move forward toward his goal. he would try to find alternative routes to get there if necessary. you can see that perhaps during the war years. during the war, grant also showed that he could be a great judge of men. he could assess men's strengths.
he could assess their weaknesses. this was his reputation during the war. it was born out by experiences with great lieutenants such as sherman and sheridan and so forth. there's some question about how well he translated that into civilian life. it took him some time, i think, to do that. he did it, i think, primarily when he realized that the republican party in his time during his term was sort of the army that he was now commanding. and his lieutenants were not only some of his people in the cabinet but also some key figures in the congress. these were important senators who helped grant achieve his goals, doing the same kind of thing that a sherman or sheridan did during the war to help him achieve his goals in wartime. grant also, a little more
abstract sense, had a great commitment to the fundamental democratic ideals of the united states. he was a dedicated patriot. he wants the union army to succeed. he wanted his country to succeed in the post-war years. his commitment to democratic ideals initially before the war, he wasn't interested in politics. had a suspicion of politicians. after the war, when he was in the white house, he did come to realize that the great potential for positive good through political action. and he did very much uphold the rights of the former slaves to vote, black suffrage. so that very much connected with his sense of democratic ideals as part of the american credo. he believed it was an important part of his responsibility to uphold the new amendments to the constitution that undergirded
civil rights and right to vote. what we have to remember is that he did not undergo a lobotomy. as a general, he had exhibited a profound capacity to envision the totality of things and the details of things of operations. he manipulated his subordinates well. he showed perseverance to achieve his goals often againest heavy odds. these traits did not abandon him when went into the white house. it's fair to say it took him a little time to adjust them to peace-time usages. those are his personal assets, some of them, i think. the list could probably go on. what about institutional assets or external assets that could aid him in his operations as president? well, i think one of the things that was working for him was a wealth of good will in the country at large. he went into the presidency
respected generally. of course, he was the savior of the union, after all. after the death of lincoln, he was the most revered man in the united states. certainly, in the north and in the south he was respected by many people. not only for his treatment of lee but also for his protection of lee and other officers from trial and his sense that it would be good to get the country back together as soon as possible. so that was an important part of his -- it worked to his advantage. a great atmosphere of good will when he took the oath of office. also, working to his advantage, was republican majority -- republican majorities in both houses ofmajorities. his party controlled both houses of congress for the first six years of his presidency.
the last two years, the democrats had the house of representatives. this was important because obviously it eased grant's legislative task. he could get things done a little bit more easily than would be otherwise the case, as we well know. presidents who have divided government do have difficulties. another asset that this president had and most presidents of the 19th century took advantage of was thehi;w patronage power. that is to say the appointments to office of subordinates around the country, not only in the positions in washington, but in federal offices around the country. it was important because he, like other presidents, would take the advice of senators and representatives about whom to appoint to those positions. and that power helped grant forth alliances with those key leaders that i was talking about earlier in the congress.
strengthened his ability to get through congress what he wanted to. on the plus side, there were a number of things working to grant's advantage, both in his personal makeup, his personal experiences and in the institutional setting in which he conducted the white house. but on other side, there were liabilities. there were obstacles to his success. factors worked against him. once again, we can divide them into personal deficiencies and institutional or contextual ones. i think it's worth noting that indeed despite his military experience and that was executive experience, he did lack political knowledge. he did lack some political experience because he had never held a political office before. he was in washington between 1865 and 1869 as general and
chief of the army and very briefly as interim secretary of war. in that time, he learned a great deal about how washington worked. but he was still somewhat naive when he took the oath of office in the feeling that he could somehow remain above politics. he could remain above the fray. it wasn't going to work out that way. as he actually rather quickly realized that as i was saying earlier, he would need to forge those positive relationships with leaders in the congress. another element in his personal makeup that i think perhaps worked against success to some degree was his tacitness. he didn't like public speaking. he seldom spoke as president other than just to acknowledge the greetings of a crowd. this was unfortunate, because i think grant missed the opportunity to use the presidency as a bully pulpit for
the things that he believed in and that he favored. why was he this way? i think there was something about his personal makeup that made him adverse to public speaking. also, it was a reaction to andrew johnson who grant believed had made a fool of himself during several of his speaking tours. grant accompanied him on one in 1866 in which andrew johnson really got into shouting matches with people in the crowd and really sort of brought the presidency low. grant's idea was, not for me. i'm not going to that kind of thing. could he speak effectively? yes, on occasion he did. in 1875, he made a speech used effectively in the ohio gubernatorial campaign that got hayes re-elected that year and positioned him to run for president the following year. in a sense, that's the exception that proves the rule on grant.
about public speaking. it's too bad he didn't do more of it. when he went abroad after his presidency, he discovered he was a pretty good speaker and came to enjoy it. but not during the white house. grant was an excellent writer, however. he did use his messages to congress both special messages and his annual message to propose policies, to defend his positions and so forth. and he could be quite eloquent on occasion in doing that, particularly in messages that related to civil rights questions. grant, like all presidents of the 19th century, did not go to congress in person. it wasn't done. it wouldn't be done again until thomas jefferson stopped that and woodrow wilson picked it up. most of the 19th century, presidents sent this word on paper. grant could do this effectively. he could have done more of it, i think. and been more effective.
there was some use of the press in the grant presidency. favorable -- feeding favorable information to reporters. grant sometimes gave interviews to the new york herald, for instance. by and large -- this is really the core of this point -- i think that one of the con tech l problems that he confronted and related to his personal problem was that he didn't control the narrative. he did not control the narrative. what happened was that his enemies, his adversaries did tend to control that narrative. when it came time for historians of the 20th century to look back and write about the grant administration, they tended to pay attention to those adversa y adversaries' points more than what the president and his advocates were saying. another personal deficiency that
i think worked against grant was what we might term an excessive loyalty to people around him. loyalty to a fault really. with many of his associates. grant was a highly sensitive man. he was an appreciative man. he held friendships dearly. he stood by those who stood by him. but sometimes he would remain loyal to people beyond the time when his -- they were worth his loyalty. that was unfortunate. his own son once said of his father, he is incapable of supposing his friends to be selfish. the simple fact of the matter is, some of them were selfish. grant may have had too trusting a relationship with some of them. that opened him to charges of winking at corruption. that's, of course, the most enduring condemnation of the grant administration in many ways. part of the reason i think that
grant did cling so tenaciously to proven friends was his own sense of inferiority. i think grant -- we don't have the option of putting grant on the couch. but it's inevitable that we try to analyze his personality. i think there was an element of an inferiority complex in some context. he did greatly admire men of wealth. because they compared so favorably to his own early failures in business. and he thought that these men had a deep understanding of the american economy and perhaps he was a little too willing to listen to their advice regarding economic policy in the white house. grant also had, i believe, a sense of inferiority with what people -- we might term ent
intellect you' intellectuals. he enjoyed family life. not particularly interested in cultural matters. there's some evidence he may have felt his west point kind of basic engineering education was somehow inferior to the classical education that men received at yale and harvard and such places. grant had some trouble reaching out to those men. and he tended to avoid their company and their counsel. i say this as an inferiority complex, but in fact, grant may have been right about the way these people felt about him. they did tend to look down on him. as i was saying earlier, they thought he was ignorant, they thought he was base and vulgar and ill mannered. henry adams' wife referred to grant as the king of vulgaria. this kind of image stuck, unfortunately. grant was a highly intelligent man. read his memoirs and that's more
than abundantly clear. but he did lack the kind of self-confidence that an abraham lincoln had who could blow off people who criticized his background. he, of course, laughed at his own background. grant had that trouble reaching out to intellectual leaders. the question of vulgarity leads us to the rumors about grant's drinking. i won't spend a lot of time on this question. most of it stems from his war years. highly exaggerated, i think. grant did drink in the white house. he served alcohol at receptions and meals. he did not drink to excess in the white house. an article came out about 1983 alleging that grant was an alcoholic, that he didn't need to drink to function, which certain sly was the case, did h not drink to function, but that he would go on binges. i think that's probably -- that
misses the mark. i think -- again, we don't have grant's medical chart in front of us. if we did, i think what we would see that grant had a very low tolerance for alcohol. a thimble belly, if you will. little alcohol would have an affect on him. that might appear to be a bing but not really the case. i think it's important to put the drinking charge into a wider context. of his time. mid 19th century, witnessed an up surge in sensitivity to the evils of drink. this is the time when the temperance movement is created. prohibition came into being. there was this cultural sensitivity against alcohol that gave grant's enemies a convenient weapon to use against him. the rumors from the war they that could blow up into a real charge against him.
and that's important. what's important here is not that grant may have had a couple of drinks in the white house. did he on occasion. what's important is the murmurings about his habits -- i shouldn't use the term habits. about his occasional drinking, whatever the reality was, that those murmurings i would submit diminished his reputation and to some degree that did diminish his -- undermined his effectiveness as president. so there are a number of personality -- i hate to use the word deficiencies. on the negative side of the scale some things about grant's personal makeup that worked against him as president. there also were institutional problems and obstacles that worked against his success in the white house. for one, grant was highly unlucky in his predecessor. andrew johnson had really dealt
the presidency a devastating blow with his overbaring meove r manner, with his fights with congress. he poisoned relationship between the congress and president. many congressional leaders became wedded to the idea that the president, whoever was sitting there, needed to be hemmed in. we don't want another man like andrew johnson. so there was this lingering skepticism about the president exerting too much influence over policy questions in the congress. grant himself recognized this in his inaugural address, first speech he meet at the time he entered the white house was he said one sentence, i shall on all suggests have a policy to recommend but none to enforce against the will of the people. this was a direct reaction to johnson's poor relations with the congress. it was a calculated sentence to try to put the congress on ease
about his -- how he was going to deal with them. but it was a huge task he confronted to try to make those relationships more amicable. that task was made more difficult by the fact that his own party in the congress was ridden by faction. they had large majorities but they were split in many ways the republicans. reconstruction policy we sought republicans split over -- between radical and moderates. over the tariff issue between protectionist and free trade. over money issue between hard money men and inflationists. on patronage between regular politicians and civil service reformers. the divisions were important, made -- operating with the congress more difficult. they were so significant those divisions that a chunk of the party split off in 1872 and formed what was known as the liberal republican party to try
to get grant out of the white house. by nominating horace greeley. another obstacle, focused on reconstruction. that was the intractability of southern whites. the degree to which grant failed to achieve real change in the south i would submit reflected the absolute determination of southern whites to regain control, to regain political control and to keep it. no president i think, not even lincoln, could have won acceptance of political equality between blacks and whites in the south at that particular moment. there's evidence today that the problem lingers to some degree. whites after the civil war, dominant whites in the south were democrtermined it was goin be a white man's government. it was very difficult to counteract that. another kind of contextual
problem that grant confronted was almost endless assaults by his enemies. nonstop really. isumner and adams. they were determined to take grant down even before he took office. some was selfishly motivated. some of these people were disappointed office seekers who thought they deserved a pointmepoin appointments from grant and didn't get them. those enemies would reach for any kind of criticism they could against grant. one of them was corruption. they charged corruption in the administration. so another problem that grant confronted during his presidency was the united states at that time was kind of experiencing a culture of corruption. and a sensitivity to corruption that tended to undermine his
power in the white house. there was a belief at this time that the government was riddled with corruption. and that wasn't particularly new. it at least extended back into the civil war years. we know that there were pell on the take dur uing the civil war and manipulating contracts. this continued into the johnson years. in fact, in the 1868 campaign, the republicans running that year said put us in power and we will get rid of the corruption that andrew johnson sponsored. so what we have to remember is that ooh grant inherited this. he didn't create it. you have to remember the context. it was a post-war period. very often we see ethical consideration sort of take a back seat as it were. during wartime, you have a great time of self-sacrifice and self-denial. it's not unusual for that to
give way to self-indulgence and self-serving. another example would be world war i giving way to the roaring '20s. you had boss tweed in new york, other city machines. had you corruption in some of the reconstruction governments in the south. you had some malfees answer in congress. some are focused on grant are things that happened in the congress like the so-called salary grab and the credit. i don't mean to say that there was no corruption in the grant administration. that would not be true. there was some. i think it has been exaggerated, but a couple of examples i will lay on the table. secretary of war william bellnap was caught taking bribes to anoint person men to what were called post traderships in forts
in the west. they would run the px in the forts. he was forced to resign. the whiskey ring was probably the most important instance of corruption during of the grant administration. that, too, by the way started before he became president. his secretary of treasury who attack ed it and brought it dow. this was a conspiracy between distillers of whiskey and officials in the interenal revenue service to avoid federal taxes. it touched grant in the sense that one of his secretaries was thought to be involved. the secretary of the treasury indeed brought babcock to trial. i think the evidence against him was pretty significant. it was circumstantial but it was
pretty convincing, i think. although, he was acquitted. when he was tried in st. louis, this was in 1876, grant volunteered to go testify on his behalf. he didn't go. saner heads in the white house or cooler heads in the white house said, for to you go out there would not be -- sit in the witness box would not be a good tling f thi thing for the presidency. he did give a deposition in favor of his friend and aide. babcock was acquitted. you might ask, why would he do that if the evidence seemed so clearly that babcock probably was involved? and i think probably we could say that this is after seven years in the white house. grant saw the attack on -- the trial of babcock as an attack on himself. after seven -- six or seven
years of this continued criticism coming from his enemies, i think by that time he had developed a kind of circle the wagons mentality. and decided to give the deposition. some other points about corruption that we might take note of. hamilton fish, secretary of state, may have had some ink lings about some shady dealings in parts of the administration. but i can find no evidence that he ever gave a kind of cancer on the presidency speech that say john dean gave to richard nixon. hamilton fish supported grant for president in 1880 when he tried to get the nomination again that year. another point about corruption. the patronage power, the power to appoint people to office. civil service reformers equate that with corruption. the fact of the matter was, it was the inherited personnel
system of the federal government at that time. many presidents had used it over the years. if you have seen the movie "lincoln" you can see abraham lincoln using it effectively to round up support for the 13th amendment to pass the congress. but again, it became a handle to use against grant in particular. expenditures another thing. fiscal conservatives tended to label any kind of expenditures as corrupt. they called raids on the treasury, expenditure became in some people's minds equivalent to extravagance which became equivalent to corruption. this was unfortunate, because at a time when the economy was changing, when the government's role in the economy was changing, this kind of easy recourse to the word corruption to describe expenditures of
perhaps an unusual nature or an increased nature tended to undermine having a real conversation about what the government's role ought to be. and it was stifling, i think, to the government to do that. but the important point for us here today is that grant's political enemies found the charge of corruption as a ready tool to demonize him in the white house. some of them, not all of them but some of them were simply using it to get back at him for besting them in politics. they would use highly charged language, vulgarity, thievery, brutality, caesarism. i think what is important to remember is that we're always going to have corruption in government. what may change is our sensitivity to corruption. historian mark summers has done a good job of describing this
dichotomy. and overall take i think is that that charge was seized by grant's enemies and it tended to undermine his effectiveness as president and besmirch his reputation. d did he achieve anything? i think there were some important achievements. but we have to i think also say it was something of a mixed record, in part because of some of these obstacles that turned out to be insurmountable. in the area of reconstruction, when grant gave list inaugural address, he called for the ratification of the 15th ame amendme amendment, conferring the right to vote on the former slaves, male former slaves. during his first year in office, he pushed for its ratification, pushed state legislatures to put it actually finally on the
books. that was achieved in 1870. it was not self-ak tu ating. it would need legislation to undergird it and put it into effective operation. so we also see grant favoring enforcement legislation. 1870, '71, the congress passed several laws that would protect rights under the 14th and 15th amendments. grant would use troops on occasion. most notably in south carolina in the fall of 1871 to put down the ku klux klan. he backed the civil rights act of 1875. and it did pass. this was a public accommodations bill. it was certainly very modern in its intent. basically, mandating equality of treatment in public accommodations. at grant's urging, this was
passed. it became law. unfortunately, eight years later in 1883, the supreme court of the united states declared it unconstitutional. so one thing to remember about grant and reconstruction, i think, is that he championed black rights at increasing political risk. his enemies tended to -- when they looked at him using troops in south carolina, for instance, they jumped on that and said, oh, we're going to have a military dictatorship in this country. they accused grant of militaryism. it tended to get lodged in people's minds and the purpose of using the troops got lost in some people's minds. the bottom line for reconstruction is that northern public opinion increasingly abandoned the project, if you will, despite grant's efforts to keep it alive. and in the south, as i was mentioning earlier, whites were
determined that it would not succeed and ultimately reconstruction did come to an unsuccessful end that lasted for nearly a century. interestingly enough, after he was out of the white house in the late 1870s, grant, speaking with a reporter once said that perhaps he should have kept -- we should have kept a military occupation of the south for ten years in order to ensure the success of a true reconstruction. but, of course, that did not happen. probably could not have happened. one area where he did achieve a success was in the so-called alabama claims. these were the claims that were registered against great britain by the united states in the dealing with the ship that had
been -- there were a handful of them, ships that had been built in great britain during the civil war and they went into the confederate service and served as commerce raiders. and the united states -- commerce raiders attacking northern merchant vessels and were quite successful at that. the united states held great britain liable for that, held them accountable for this -- the activities of those ships. this was a problem in our diplomatic relations with great britain after the war. grant and his secretary of state hamilton fish did negotiate the so-called treaty of washington setting up the geneva arbitration to arbitrate those claims. great britain paid $15.5 million as a result of those -- of that arbitration.
the treaty -- it was not just the money. it was not just the $15.5 million that the arbitrators made great britain pay the united states. there was also a strategic vision involved in this. grant -- the treaty of washington and the geneva accord gave a relatively narrow definition of the types of activities that a neutral country could be held accountable for by a belligerent in time of war. and this was exactly what grant was looking for. grant believed that down the road when the united states -- when wars were going on, the united states would probably not be involved in them primarily and that generally speaking and that as a neutral, we would want to be able do as many things as possible, particularly in the area of trade. the fact that the treaty of washington and the geneva arbitration gave a relatively narrow definition on the restrictions of the restrictions
of neutral -- on neutrals during time of war, worked to the united states advantage, grant believed. another attempt to fill a strategic vision was grant's attempt to annex santo domingo, the dominican republic. had an unstable government, revolving door government, revolution every other week practically. even before grant became president, its beleaguered president asked the united states to annex it. grant didn't invent this idea. as was sometimes alleged. it's another thing he inherited. when he became president, they renewed their offer as it were and grant investigated it. once again, he brought to bear certain considerations of a
strategic nature in thinking about annexing santo domingo. one of the lessons he thought that the united states learned in the civil war was the importance of controlling sea lanes in the western hemisphere. great britain at that time had island colonies and outposts in central and south america that enables the british navy pretty much to control the caribbean sea so that the united states merchant vessels going from the east coast to the gulf coast would have to go in foreign waters. he thought it was important for the united states to get a base in that region in santo domingo seemed like the ideal spot for a base that would help keep the sea lanes open to trade and, of course, would serve a vital function during time of war if necessary. another strategic interest in that was, of course, everybody
was thinking at this time and would continue for the next half century thinking about building a canal through central america. this is before the panama canal, of course. everybody had this on their mind. grant thought, well, if we do have such a canal, we would want to be able to command a defensive commission on the eastern term of that. santo domingo could serve that very well. again could serve that very well. there were monroe doctrine considerations. the -- if the united states didn't take santo domingo, perhaps someone else would. and there was some fear that germany was looking for a foothold in the caribbean. grant also had in mind considerations related to santo domingo's resources, sugar, coffee, chocolates, fruits. timber. all these things could come into the united states free of tariff chanceer charges if the united states were to acquire santo
domido domi domingo. he thought that would be good for both peoples. also there was a reason related to reconstruction. and that was this. everybody well knew blacks were being musculoskeletal treated in the south and perhaps santo domingo, whose population, by the way, was black or mixed race almost 100%, that this would serve as kind of a haven for american blacks who were looking for a better life. and even if they didn't go there -- i don't mean to portray grant as an arden colonizer. that's not the point. but he felt that the possibility of going there might be used by blacks in the south to leverage better treatment from their
former masters of the south. there were lots of reasons that grant thought santo domingo was a plus. but it was not approved. he failed to get the an ex-ation treaty approved. this is not to say that the united states did not have a history of an ex-ation. certainly that's the whole 19th century story, that the united states moving westward and acquiring chunks of real estate after chunks of real estate as it moved westward, but this was almost unprecedented in that it would be jumping off the north american continent and people thought perhaps we're not quite ready for that. also, just two years before grant became president the united states purchased alaska at a pretty hefty price, $7.5 million. and many people thought, first of all, the deal was corrupt and, second of all, it was a waste of money anyway. known as seward's ice box and
seward's followy. people said let's not repeat that mistake. there were charges of corruption related to santo domingo. joseph fabins and william casno, who definitely would have made more money, had the united states an ex-ed santo domingo. they were developers, as it were. as mark twain's book, "the gilded age" reminds us, business men of that type were often referred to as corrupt, even dismissed as corrupt. this was working against the project as well. the fact that babcock was involved in the project. he went down and investigated santo domingo and negotiated the treaty for an ex-ation, and
worked closely with fabins and casno. this, of course, was used against him, against the project as this was all some kind of corrupt conspiracy to work a deal. racism was involved as well. many people felt well, we already have a very serious racial problem in the united states, in the south. do we want to take on another area that is predominantly black and try to deal with that in addition? a black mixed race population. even the champion of african-american rights, charles sumner, exhibited a kind of racism in his opposition. sumner said the tropics were ideally suited for blacks, the united states ought not to interfere. let them run their own affairs in their own, natural habitat. really quite a racist kind of argument that he would make.
not in the sense of overt racism that he hated blacks, but just his perception of the differences in the races. the treaty was defeated in june 187028-28 in the senate. grant stopped pushing an ex-ation eventually but he never gave up the idea. he never admitted it was the wrong thing, even in his memoirs where he talks almost exclusively in his career. one of the few things he mentioned about his presidency was his project for santo domingo and thought it was the right thing do. again, he instanced this question of helping southern blacks by acquiring santo domingo. there were achievements in other areas, in the economy. reduction of taxation, tariff taxes were lowered. internal taxes were lowered. the inheritance tax was
abolished, national debt was lowered by 17%. resumption act was passed, which scheduled a date for when the united states would pay gold and silver for the green backs. also the government ran eight years of surpluses, no deficits during grant's term in office. it wasn't all roses. you had the panic of 1873, classic banker's panic, leading to a very serious depression. we have to remember, of course, there was no federal reserve at that time to counteract the effects of a depression. and so the economy spiraled downward. grant actually toyed with the idea of public works spending. the way to help generate jobs is to spend federal monies to get people back to work. this was a horrible idea to the orthodoxed thinkers within his
own party and most economists of his day. it was a stimulus package and that kind of thing was simply unacceptable in his time. james a. garfield, head of the house appropriations committee was shocked by this notion. and grant did back off of it and take the more orthodox point of view. in his heart i think he knew what was needed. it was kind of casian before canes, if you will. to counteract the depression, congress passed what was called the inflation bill, which would have pumped about $90 million of currency back into the economy. and grant very seriously thought about signing that bill but again they said that will destroy consumer confidence if you flood the economy with too much money. inflation he veto did contribute
to the republican party into very conservative monetary party. in december of 1870, he called for reform. congress authorized a commission to be established to write rules for meritus appointments and so forth in the federal bureaucracy. grant appointed the premier civil service reformer to head that commission, george william curtis. and it went into operation in 1872 there was strong opposition in the congress, however. built up through the ability. the civil service commission needed appropriations to operate. year after year, they would ask for an appropriation. grant would ask for an appropriation for them. and year after year, it got less and less, until finally it was
cut off all together and grant gave up the experiment. grant had great sympathy for the american indians. he wanted to improve their lot as president and adopted the so-called peace policy. clean up the indian bureaus, get rid of the appointees who were the indian agents who were really the front line people out in the west, and he turned to religious organizations to recommend people to serve in those federal indian agencies out in the west. although it was a great
approach, it had a flaw, and the primary aim was to change the indian's culture. grant hoped one day all the indians would become self-sustaining farmers and they would be eligible to vote and be just like white people. the indians resisted that kind of change and jeb generals thought no, probably sterm nation is the best policy. incidents set off warfare once again. although he continued to keep the religious agents in place, there was warfare once again out west during the latter part of his administration. overall, i think it's a mixed record of achievement. but we could also ask one other question today. and that is what kind of impact did grant have on the office of president itself? what lessons did he leave for future presidents, whether or
not they paid any attention to them? first, he was a great improvement over andrew johnson. he began the process of rehabilitating the presidency after johnson's term in the white house. he discovered amicable relationships. generally speaking, he was able to treat the republican party in congress as he had treated the army during the war and exercise some effective legislative leadership. he began to realize pretty soon on that for a president to be effective, he had to be a party leader as well. he, himself, said that it was followy. it was a utopian idea to run a government without a party. that, i think, was a significant notion that he brought to the presidency. he also made a very important contribution in organizing white house operations. he created a professional staff in the white house, a device for
helping him bear the ever-increasing burden of the executive branch. previous presidents had staff around them, private secretaries, one or two, who helped them with correspondence. grant took the step of drawing upon his war-time experience to crea create, to give his staff actual sub tan active ability. some of the same people served him in the white house. horace porter, babcock again. they retained their army slots but were detailed to the white house. didn't cost the government any extra money, but they were there to serve their chief again. so he was able to extend the issues he could deal with effectively.
gave him extra sets of eyes and ears, if you will. but others in the government were really put off by this some people in congress and some in his own cabinet felt you have to run through this military clique around the president to get to him. even with that set aside, i think we can say that grant had taken an important step in strengthening the office of president. and a step toward developing the apparatus that made the executive branch more effective when we get to the modern presidency. the staff also, i think, helped grant in his relationships with the cabinet so that some people in the cabinet had this notion that they were sort of freestanding agents, could do whatever they wanted. grant didn't.
anybody who thought they could go off on a tangent by themselves usually found themselves out of a job pretty quickly. the mobility of the presidency. this has a modern ring to it as well. traveling extensively as president, turned aside partisan criticism that somehow he was neglecting his duties. he used the railroad, the telegraph. aides travelled with him so he could keep on top of business. when he issued the proclamation against the ku klux klan in 1871 in south carolina, he was actually traveling up here in new england at that time. this, too, is an important st step in the creation of the modern presidency. grant was saying the presidential office is wherever the president happens to be. we take this for granted now. i would also submit finally that i think there are a couple of lessons that grant left, perhaps, in spite of himself.
and that is you should pick your aideswide wisely and hold them at arm's length. not all subsequent presidents have learned this. orville babcock has had several successors over the years. the list goes on and on. but this is an important lesson. i think you have to be very careful in the people you have very close around you. another lesson? tell your story. tell it early. and tell it well. because if you don't, others are going to tell it for you, to your disadvantage. presidents give the impression of success in considerable measure because they control the narrative. i think in a measurement of grant's effectiveness in the white house was his re-election in 1872. despite all these criticisms that people leveled against him.
certain people did. he was basically quite a popular president and a reasonably effective president. so, when he was up for re-election in 1872, yes, you had that liberal republican split that went off and nominated horace greeley. grant still won the popular vote, which still is a very substantial win. the other measurement of grant's effectiveness as president was -- follow me closely on this. during the second term, about the middle and toward the end of his second term, there was a movement against his run ining r a third term. i say that's a measurement of his effectiveness because that came about because his enemies thought this guy is so effective and popular, he could probably get a second term -- excuse me, a third term. they started to talk about the
two-term tradition. george washington started it, so on and so forth. but again it's a way of saying in a negative kind of way this man was actually doing at least a popular job in the white house. so, they invoked this notion that somehow this violates our ancient customs by putting this man forward for a third term. remember, presidents were not limited to two terms constitutionally at that time. after four years being out of office, when rutherford b. hayes was there, when you got to 1880, a number of people wanted grant to run again for a third term at that time. he came very close to winning the nomination in 1880. but it did go to the dark horse, james a. garfield. what's significant about that is a large part of the argument for
grant is that he would be a strong man in the white house after what people regarded as the weak hayes. some people called him miss nancy jane hayes. we needed someone with vigor once again in the white house. grant established the notion that the president should be a strong voice, that he should be an activist leader, at the center of the national government. we take this for granted today. if you look at the long evolution of the presidency versus the congress, this is a milestone, i think, in that more and more we're going to see presidents being assertive. that's what grant was really up to during his presidency. that the president -- these people who voted for him at the convention in 1880 were saying should not be a mere handmaden to the congress. that, i submit, is another step in the creation of the modern presidency, that this was the appropriate role for a president to make.
thank you very much. [ applause ] >> sir? >> please. >> a quick question. you briefed us on grant's actions for the annexation and then it was defeated. in his speech to congress of 1870 he pushed again, asking them to send a commission to the dominican republic and look into the annexation issue. the commission went down there in the spring of '71, they came back and said they favorably made a decision for annexation, that we should pursue it. and at that point, president grant took no further action. do you have any idea why he didn't continue to pursue it? >> i do, actually. first of all, let's remember that the treaty initially failed
28-28. and for all the reasons i was cataloging earlier. there was a good bit of opposition to it. and i think that there was an element in that commission, in looking for vindication -- not necessarily that he felt -- i think part of him said maybe this would work out but another part said i wanted it on record that awhat i proposed was the right for the country. i'm glad you brought up that commission. this was a group -- this wasn't some sort of, you know, kro croneyism in selecting this group. he selected some well-respected leaders in the country to make this trip. the president of cornell university was one of them, benjamin wade, a former senator. one of charles sumner's most ardent supporters.
they went down and did the thorough observation that babcock, frankly, did not do on his trip to santo domingo. between babcock's trip and the commission's report, what you had was all this political br brouhaha over santo domingo and i think grant recognized, all right. this is not going to go through. this is an act of just being realistic on his part. and as i was indicating, in his heart of hearts, he thought the united states has made a big mistake here in this. and he had done everything that he could. what he did when he -- i think it was may of 1871, when he sent the commission report to congress. he said all right, here it is. it's up to you now if you want to do something about it. it's up to the american people if they want this. i've done everything i can on behalf of a project i thm think
is good for the country. but circumstances -- and he didn't have to name names at that point. circumstances have decided otherwise. as i said, he sort of gave up on pushing it after that. although in his last annual message to congress in december of 1876, he brought it up one more time saying, well, we missed an opportunity. and on his death bed, writing the memoirs, he very briefly mentioned it as well. good question, yeah. anyone else? please. >> do you think that was developed when he was a general in the wars, that he learned that his lieutenants would be loyal and do whatever he needed them to do? and that just carried over in his whole history and he believed they were mistakes and not maybe devious, corrupt kind of decisions? >> yeah, i do. i do think that he did bring to
the white house that sense of loyalty that was developed during the war. i think that's part of service in war. you're loyal to one another. you stand with one another under all kinds of circumstances. and there were people that grant didn't get along with particularly in the war and whom he felt were not doing the job. indeed, they found themselves relieved of command occasionally. the same was true when he was in the white house. but i don't think there's any question, really, that the war-time experience fed that deeply. but a man like orville babcock, probably the most grievous traitor to grant on that whole loyalty question, he had been with grant through most of the war. he joined the staff in '63, '64, something like that. had worked closely with him, run
errands with him of all kinds. when congress passed the reconstruction act in 1867, the south was to be divided into five districts, five military districts. and the president was supposed to determine what those districts were. johnson said since these are military districts perhaps you should tell me who the commanders of those districts should be. and grant said -- turned to adam and horace babcock and said you work it out and let me know. he could delegate to these people because he felt they served him well and a man like babcock, very high ranking in his class at west point. somehow had a makeup that made him less than worthy of that loyalty. but i don't think there's any question that the patterns of behavior, of relationship with subordinates that grant
developed during the war certainly stuck with him in the white house. what we have to remember about this man, grant, he went into the civil war at age 38. his life, i'm sure you've discussed this already, had not been terribly successful before. he was in a set of circumstances where he was achieving success and forging those kinds of relationships that you're talking about was part of achieving that success. and he felt, i think, at least implicitly that the same kind of thing could work to his advantage in the white house. harry truman used to say, if you want a friend in washington, get a dog. and the point was that the way things worked in the capitol -- still today probably, most likely -- you have to be careful. that's what i said about that choose your aides carefully. choose them wisely. you never know who may not be worthy of the choice that you've
made. thank you. anyone else? please. >> yes, sir. as we've discussed in class do you kind of get this feeling ta grant was somewhat of a hesitant leader? he was never the one to raise his hand and a i want to be the general of this, i want to be the commander of this? even as he writes about how he came to become the nominee for president, it was almost like he backed his way into it and he felt like he had to do it because, you know, nobody else would fight for what was game during the war. do you get the sense that he was a reluctant leader or driven toward success in these higher positions and maybe it's portrayed in some of these writings? >> that's an excellent question. the psychological makeup of ulysses s. grant has stumbled me for years. there is an element of
hesitation but also an element of ambition. he didn't like to have councils of war that much. he liked listening to people and sort of coming up with his own decisions and moving forward on them. but clearly when the war came on, he was eager to get into it. it wasn't somebody going knocking on his door saying, hey, you worked at west point. why don't you go, see if you can get in the army after ft. sumt nech ner. thinking service out of the far west was just a dreary kind of life, away from his beloved family. when the war came on, after a string of personal economic failures, he thought okay, i'm trained to do this. i'm going to offer my services. and he did. so, in that sense, he was eager to do his part. and i think that, again, when he
had those initial successes -- i think in his memoirs you may remember him saying his first significant battle -- it wasn't a huge battle. he discovered hey, the enemy is as afraid of me as i am of him. this was the light bulb going off. this is important. and it taught him that he could actually accomplish things. and that he had the wherewithal to do something of importance. and i think he drove himself, as general, after that to succeed and did. as far as accepting the nomination for president is concerned, i think there was tl definitely was an element of hesitation in that. as i said, he had been in washington for four years. he seen this horrible wrangling between the president and congress and served briefly as secretary of war. sat in those cabinet meetings and saw some really kind of awful performances.
do i really want to be involved in that? but on the other hand, i think there was a kernel of ambition within him. and as you pointed out, he also believed, i may be the only one who actually can secure the results of the war. we've got these politicians wrangling with one another. i may be the only one -- i'm a national figure, for whatever reason, i'm there. maub i can sort of bring sense into people's minds. when grant became president, within a year he sat down with his secretary of state one time, who kept a wonderful diary and said -- this was after he had undergone a lot of criticism and said i don't know what it is about this job that people want. if it weren't for my sense of duty, i would resign. i would resign the presidency. i think it was june of 1870 he said that.
there were times he said -- the president was paid $25,000. the general in chief at that time was paid $17,000 a year. these were very large salaries. and $17,000, that was easy street. it was a lifetime job. i gave that up. i gave that up and here i am, in this caldron, this storm of criticism all the time. why should i do this? he did feel that he had something to contribute to the country. when he was rel-elected and took the oath of office for the second time, you could see the pain in a sense that he felt because he did say i take the result of the election as something of a vindication for what i've tried to do. it didn't shut up his enemies particularly, but he could at least say it looks as if the american people have a different sort of idea as to what i'm up
to. good question. other? yes, please. >> my question is concern about the political perspective of grant's administration. is there any historical record that could give us information about what was the relationship toward mexico in that time? i know that in that time, they were inside because of the row construction. is there any information about that relationship? >> relations with mexico? of course, they were generally peaceful. you remember, of course, that there was the attempt to establish an empire in mexico, maximillian and so forth, who was assassinated. before grant became president, there was thought -- and he engaged in this thought -- that
perhaps the united states should invade mexico and throw out maximil maximil maximillian and so forth. he was quite close to the mexican ambassador. then it was called minister, in washington, romero. i think those two men, working together, kept the relations between the two countries pretty strong. grant's attention was primarily focused elsewhere. and there was no sense at that time of, shall we say, an activist foreign policy with the state department having all these different tasks. how are we going to treat central america, europe? it's almost as if the united
states in its foreign affairs operated on an ad hoc basis. and when crises came up, you dealt with them. united states actually paid a lot more attention to cuba at the time because of the cuban's attempt to overthrow spanish rule there. grant may have been wanting -- may have wanted to help out militarily. i don't think he really did, but he certainly was sympathetic to them. perhaps recognizing their vyi beligerency, which might have helped in overthrowing the spanish there. part of the problem was that we thought great britain recognized the beligerency of the confederacy much too early and
perhaps never should have done so. so, we can't turn around and say we think the cuban insurgents are real beligerents and deserve all the rights that they should have during the time of war, particularly with neutrals. that was occupying him much more than -- anyone else? sir, please. >> i had a question about grant's relationship with sherman after the war. sherman continuing on as chief of the army later on. but this notion of grant and his ties with army colleagues, with this brotherhood that was established. in his memoir, he speaks so highly of sherman as his colleague and trusted