Grant’s First TombRoundup
tags: economic history, Republican Party, Reconstruction, Ulysses S. Grant
Jamelle Bouie writes opinion pieces on politics, history, and cultre for the New York Times.
On this day 150 years ago, Ulysses S. Grant gave his first inaugural address — a short, plain-spoken statement of intent. Abraham Lincoln’s prized general, and a national hero in his own right, he promised to bring his singular determination to the presidency. “The responsibilities of the position I feel, but accept them without fear,” Grant said. “The office has come to me unsought; I commence its duties untrammeled. I bring to it a conscious desire and determination to fill it to the best of my ability to the satisfaction of the people.”
Grant’s inauguration felt like the beginning of a new era of reform and revitalization. For nearly four years, Americans had suffered through the tumultuous presidency of Andrew Johnson, who drove the nation to political crisis with his virulent racism, erratic behavior and leniency toward the defeated secessionists.
Grant, by contrast, backed the rights and privileges of freed black Americans. He supported the 15th Amendment to the Constitution (ratified in 1870) extending voting rights to black men and deployed federal troops against vigilante groups like the Ku Klux Klan (whose first grand wizard, Nathan Bedford Forrest, was a former battlefield foe).
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