Ulysses S. Grant Part 5

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Ulysses S. Grant is a Webnovel created by Walter Allen.
This lightnovel is currently completed.

There is reason to believe that if it had caused less alarm it would have a.s.sumed a more substantial aspect.

During the excited and perilous four months after the election of 1876, when civil war and anarchy were imminent on account of the disputed result of the people’s suffrage, the conduct of the President was admirable. He let it be understood that violence would be suppressed, without hesitation, at any cost. He preserved the _status quo_, and compelled peaceful patience. The condition was one which summoned into action his genius of supreme command, and it shone with its former splendor of authority. On the 4th of March, 1877, he became a private citizen.



Upon leaving the presidency General Grant retained the distinction of first citizen of the nation. There was no fame of living man that could vie with his. His old form of modesty and simplicity was resumed. As soon as he stepped down from the pedestal of power the criticism of duty and the criticism of malice both ceased. A generous people was glad to forget his errors and remember only his patriotism and his transcendent successes in arms. Even those who had most deprecated his mistakes as a civil magistrate were hardly sorry that he had been repeatedly rewarded for his great services by the highest honor popular suffrage could bestow. They were ready to believe, as, indeed, was true, that in most of the things deserving reprobation he was the victim of his innocence of selfish politics and his unwary friendships, of which baser men had taken foul advantage. They were glad for his sake, as much as for their own, that he was no longer President Grant, but again General Grant, a t.i.tle purely reminiscent and complimentary, for he was no longer an officer of the army. With all his honors about him, he stood on the common level of citizenship, as when he was a farmer in Missouri or a tanner’s clerk in Galena.

There came to him then the desire to see other lands and peoples and to meet the renowned commanders in other wars, the actors in other statesmanship. It was determined that he should have all the opportunities and advantages which the national prestige could command for its foremost unofficial representative. No other American had gone abroad whose achievements bespoke for him so respectful a welcome among the great. Every aid was availed of to make it apparent that our nation expected him to be entertained as its beloved hero. He sailed from Philadelphia on May 17, 1877, and, returning, he landed in San Francisco September 20, 1879, having made the circuit of the globe.

Of such another progress there is no record. He visited nearly every country of Europe, the Holy Land, Egypt, Syria, India, Burmah, China, Siam, and j.a.pan, being everywhere received as the guest of their rulers, and welcomed by the chief representatives of their statesmanship, their learning, and their social life. He was received with high courtesies by Queen Victoria of England, President McMahon and President Grevy of France, the emperors of Germany, Russia, and Austria, the kings of Belgium, Italy, Holland, Sweden, and Spain, Pope Leo XIII., the Sultan of Turkey, the Khedive of Egypt, the Duke of Wellington, Prince Bismarck, M. Gambetta, Lord Lytton, Viceroy of India, King Thebau of Burmah, Prince Kung of China, the Emperor of Siam, the Mikado of j.a.pan, and many others only less famous. With few exceptions he met under the most favorable circ.u.mstances all persons of note in all the lands he visited. Extraordinary pains were taken to promote the comfort of his party, and to enable its members to see whatever was most worth seeing.

The recipient of all this flattering attention bore himself with a simple dignity that won the respect of the high and the low alike. He was neither awed nor abashed among the great, nor was he haughty or presuming among the common people. The nation at home followed his progress with pride and gratification. When he landed in San Francisco, he was welcomed as a favorite who had achieved new distinction for himself and his land, and his leisurely way across the continent was marked by a series of ovations all the way to New York. To complete his itinerary, he soon made a tour of the West Indies and of Mexico, visiting the scenes where he had won his first laurels, as Lieutenant Grant, thirty years before. He was honored as the warrior whose victories, besides uniting and exalting his native land, had delivered Mexico from the imposition of an alien imperialism.

Unfortunately, this revived popularity of General Grant was taken advantage of by a faction of the Republican party to urge again his reelection to the presidency. New York, Pennsylvania, and Illinois were committed to his support by the influence of their powerful Republican leaders; but not unanimously. The movement is supposed to have been undertaken without consultation with Grant; but he did nothing to discourage it, and to this extent he consented to it. The attempt failed. Prudent people had no mind to have their hero’s good name again made opprobrious by fresh scandals, which they could not but dread.



General Grant now made his home in the city of New York. He was not wealthy, and he desired to be. The only persons he seemed to envy, and particularly to court, were those who had great possessions. He coveted a fortune that should place his family beyond any chance of poverty.

This weakness was his undoing. He became the private partner of an unscrupulous schemer and robber, and intrusted to him all that he had, and more, to be adventured in speculation. His name was dishonored in Wall Street by a.s.sociation with a scoundrel whom prudent financiers distrusted and shunned. He was warned, but would not heed the warnings.

The charitable view is that he was deceived by repayments which he was told were profits. On May 6, 1884, a crisis came and Grant was ruined.

He gave up everything he possessed in the struggle to redeem his honor, even the presents and trophies which had been lavishly bestowed upon him. This savior of his country and recipient of its grateful generosity, who was but lately the guest of the princes of the earth, became dependent upon pitying friends for shelter and bread, until enterprising editors of magazines began competing for contributions from his pen.

And, as if his misfortunes were not yet sufficiently desperate, illness came. A malignant, incurable cancer appeared in his mouth. He stood face to face with the last enemy, the always victorious one, and realized that the rest of life was but a few months of increasing torture. Then the magnificent courage of his soul a.s.serted itself in fort.i.tude unequaled at Donelson, or Vicksburg, or Chattanooga, or the Wilderness.

No eye saw him quail; no ear heard him complain.

It was suggested that if he would write a book, an autobiographical memoir, the profit of it, doubtless, would place his family above want.

Nothing can be imagined more unacceptable to General Grant’s native disposition than the narration for the public of his own life story. But in his circ.u.mstances, the question was not one of sentiment, but only of duty to those who were dependent upon him. The task was undertaken resolutely, and, in spite of physical weakness and suffering, was carried on with as high and faithful energy as he had shown in any campaign of the war. On March 3, 1885, he was restored to the army with the rank of general on the retired list with full pay. He was glad; but in his feebleness joy was as hard to bear as grief. He began failing more rapidly.

In June he was taken to the sweet tonic air of a cottage on Mount McGregor, near Saratoga. Here, in pleasant weather, he could sit in the open air and enjoy the agreeable prospect. But whether indoors or out, he toiled at the book in every possible moment, writing with a pencil on tablets while he had strength, then dictating in almost inaudible whispers, little by little, to an amanuensis. So, toilsomely, through intense suffering, sustained by indomitable will, this legacy to his family and the world was completed to the end of the war. His last battle was won. Four days after the victory, he died, July 23, 1885. The book had a success beyond all sanguine expectations, and accomplished the purpose of its author. To his countrymen it was a revelation of the heart of the man, Ulysses Grant, in its n.o.bility, its simplicity, and its charity, that has endeared him beyond any knowledge afforded by the outward manifestations of his life.

His conversations in his last days, as reported by visitors to Mount McGregor (among these was General Buckner, who surrendered Fort Donelson), show a soul serene and cheerful, devoted to his country, to humanity, and to peace. No experiences of malevolence and injury had shaken his trust in the goodness of the great majority of mankind.

When the great soldier died he owned no uniform in which he could be suitably attired for the grave, no sword to be laid on his coffin. His body lies in the magnificent tomb, erected by the voluntary contributions of admiring citizens, the commanding attraction of a beautiful park overlooking the broad Hudson as it sweeps past the nation’s chief city. Already this resting place has become a veritable shrine of patriotism. Military and naval pageants make it their proper goal, as when, after Santiago, the returning battleships moved in stately procession up the Hudson to the tomb of our national military hero, there to thunder forth the triumphant salute, like a summons to his spirit to bestow an approval.

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