Rioters in California destroyed a statue of Ulysses S. Grant (not the one featured in the image above) on Friday night as far-left activists continue to destroy statues across the U.S.
Grant, a Republican who served as America’s 18th president, played a key role in helping then-President Abraham Lincoln win the Civil War.
Ulysses Grant (1822-1885) commanded the victorious Union army during the American Civil War (1861-1865) and served as the 18th U.S. president from 1869 to 1877. An Ohio native, Grant graduated from West Point and fought in the Mexican-American War (1846-1848). During the Civil War, Grant, an aggressive and determined leader, was given command of all the U.S. armies.
After the war he became a national hero, and the Republicans nominated him for president in 1868. A primary focus of Grant’s administration was Reconstruction, and he worked to reconcile the North and South while also attempting to protect the civil rights of newly freed black slaves.
Grant also aggressively went after the Ku Klux Klan, whose founder Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest was a Democrat.
History reported that the KKK terrorized blacks and Republicans in the South during the era of Reconstruction:
Most prominent in counties where the races were relatively balanced, the KKK engaged in terrorist raids against African Americans and white Republicans at night, employing intimidation, destruction of property, assault, and murder to achieve its aims and influence upcoming elections.
In a few Southern states, Republicans organized militia units to break up the Klan. In 1871, passage of the Ku Klux Act led to nine South Carolina counties being placed under martial law and thousands of arrests. In 1882, the U.S. Supreme Court declared the Ku Klux Act unconstitutional, but by that time Reconstruction had ended, and much of the KKK had faded away.
Congress responded to the violence by passing a series of bills that allowed Grant to use military force to protect the rights of blacks.
Here's what they left:
Ulysses Grant did actually own a slave:
Did Ulysses S. Grant own slaves during the Civil War?
No, but it will come as a surprise to many people, that Grant did in fact own a man named William Jones for about a year on the eve of the Civil War. In 1859, Grant either bought or was given the 35-year-old Jones, who was in Grant’s service until he freed him before the start of the War.
While Grant’s views on slavery evolved over time, his relationship with slavery was complicated and demonstrates the pervasiveness of the institution in antebellum America. Grant’s father, Jesse, was an abolitionist who wrote for the Castigator, a newspaper in Ohio. However, his son’s attitudes toward slavery were more ambivalent, at least from what we can discern of his opinions before and during the Civil War. “I never was an abolitionist, Grant wrote to his friend and patron, Elihu Washburne, in 1863, “not even what could be called anti-slavery…”
In 1848 Grant married into the slaveholding family of Julia Dent. Her father, Frederick Dent, owned 30 enslaved people and had “given” Julia four enslaved people when she was a child: Eliza, Dan, Julia, and John. There is no evidence he legally transferred ownership to Julia but from her writings it is clear she considered them hers.
In 1854 Grant left the military and tried to make a go of it as a farmer on land adjacent to his father-in-law’s in St. Louis, Missouri. He worked alongside Frederick Dent’s enslaved laborers to build a house for his family that they dubbed “Hardscrabble.”
Finding farming less lucrative than he’d hoped, Grant asked his father for a loan. Jesse Grant reportedly replied, “Ulysses, when you are ready to come North I will give you a start, but so long as you make your home among a tribe of slave-owners I will do nothing.”
After the death of Julia’s mother, the Grant family left “Hardscrabble” and moved to her father’s farm, “White Haven,” which Grant managed from 1854-1859. Novelist Hamlin Garland, an early biographer who spoke with Grant’s Missouri neighbors, wrote,
“The use of slaves on the farm…was a source of irritation and shame to Grant. Jefferson Sapington told me that he and Grant used to work in the fields with the blacks. He said with glee, ‘Grant was helpless when it came to making slaves work,’ and Mrs. Boggs corroborated this. ‘He was no hand to manage negroes,’she said. ‘He couldn’t force them to do anything. He wouldn’t whip them. He was too gentle and good tempered and besides he was not a slavery man.’”
Whether or not Grant wasn’t a “slavery man” by inclination, we know he briefly owned William Jones. He does not mention Jones in his memoirs or other writings, so the exact nature of their relationship remains a mystery. We do know that in March 1859 Grant filed the following manumission document.
“I Ulysses S Grant of the City and County of St. Louis in the State of Missouri, for diverse good and valuable considerations me hereunto moving, do hereby emancipate and set free from Slavery my negro man William, sometimes called William Jones(Jones)of Mullatto complexion, aged about thirty-five years, and about five feet seven inches in height and being the same slave purchased by me of Frederick Dent-And I do hereby manumit, emancipate & set free said William from slavery forever.”
It is notable that Grant did not sell or work out a plan with Jones to purchase his freedom, but simply freed him.
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