In fact, Norton claims that while the Whiskey Ring investigation was taking place, Grant had stated, "Let no guilty man escape" (Bailey 512) but when news that his secretary was involved surfaced, he "speedily changed his views" (512). Grant wrote a personal note to the jury and "with all the weight of his exalter office behind it, the their escaped" (512). When Belknap was exposed, Grant accepted his resignation "with great regret" while the Senate voted to impeach him. Norton maintains that by 1872, there was a "wave of disgust with Grantism" (Norton 512), leading to a surge of popularity of a liberal Republican Party, who simply wanted to "turn the rascals out" (512). Grant never seemed to grasp the notion of what it took to lead a country and he failed to separate his personal feelings from his duties as president.
Simon distinguishes between Grant's military experience and political experience by stating that Grant won the war as an "unmilitary general; he planned to serve as an unpolitical president" (Simon). He wanted to "set his own course in enforcing Reconstruction and reforming Indian policy" (Simon). Simon maintains that Grant was accustomed to the privilege of being able to learn from his mistakes in the war. However, the "presidency afforded no such opportunities" (Simon). Simon also states that Grant lost a good amount of prestige when he entered the political arena. Many think he ran for reelection as "vindication" (Simon). His second term was worse in Simon's opinion not because of damage done to his integrity but to his judgment. Because he was such a great military leader, his presidency is seen as an utter failure. There were other factors involved with Grant's struggles. His external problems included dealing with an indifferent Congress and politicians called his civil service reform "snivel-service reform" (374). He was headstrong about many issues and once told congress, "no man can hope to perform duties so delicate and responsible as appertain to the Presidential office without sometimes incurring the hostility of those who deem their opinions and wishes treated with insufficient consideration" (379). Church maintains that this comment allows us to understand how Grant "failed in the administration" (379) of President. Grant's inexperience caused him to flounder on significant issues facing the country. Davidson claims that Grant "lacked the moral commitment to make the Reconstruction succeed" (Davidson 632). Davidson states that Grant was unsure of himself "socially" (632) and he "gravitated toward the wealthy elements in American society" (632) that funded his party. He was also "ill at ease with the political process, lacked trustworthy advisors, and haunted by his undistinguished career before 1861" (632). Grant also suffered from an "abiding sense of failure' (632). Grant's presidency was filled with so many scandals that the term "Grantism" (Davidson 632) was code for "corruption, cronyism, and venality" (632). He was very loyal to his friends and "displayed very little zeal to root out corruption or bring the guilty to justice" (632). Grant never learned the importance of being prudent when dealing with issues on a national level.
Ulysses Grant might have been a smart leader on the battlefield but he failed to make bring that success to the White house. He thought he could run the country a different way and be unpolitical. What he learned was that the nation needs a political leader. In addition to that, the nation needs a leader with experience. Grant teaches us that experience comes in many forms and what is good for one field of business might not be good for another. The country took a chance on Grant, hoping he could bring them the kind of change they were looking for in tough times. What he brought them was further embarrassment and frustration that was met with an unwillingness to see justice served to his friends. He demonstrates how the office of the President of the United States is not just another public service job but a huge responsibility that deserves only the best.
Bailey, Thomas, et al. The American Pageant. Lexington D.C. Heath and Company. 1994.
Davidson, James. Nation of Nations. Vol. II. New York: McGraw-Hill Publishing Company.
Church, William Conant. Ulysses S. Grant and the Period of National Preservation and Reconstruction. New York: The Knickerbocker Press. 1897.