Notified of his nomination for a second term in June 1872, Ulysses S. Grant accepted, promising "the same zeal and devotion to the good of the whole people for the future of my official life, as shown in the past." Challenged by a coalition of disaffected Republicans and Democrats led by New York Tribune editor Horace Greeley, Grant was privately optimistic about his own chances. "There has been no time from the Baltimore Convention to this when I have felt the least anxiety. The Soreheads & thieves who have deserted the republican party have strengthened it by their departure." Despite his confidence, Grant found it difficult to ignore attacks against himattacks that prudence prevented him from answering directly. He found vindication, however, on election day, when he carried all but six states. When Greeley died soon afterward, Grant set aside any bitterness and joined mourners at the New York City funeral.
Among the policies that voters tacitly endorsed were Grant's continuing efforts to quell violence in the South, which achieved some success during 1872. He sought as before to support and encourage embattled Southern Republicans, hoping eventually to replace military protection with political legitimacy. On the subject of civil rights, he repeated his desire that blacks receive equal treatment in everyday life, telling a delegation that "a ticket on a railroad or other conveyance should entitle you to all that it does other men."
Grant also maintained a steady course toward Indians, defending his peace policy when many clamored for harsher measures. "I do not believe our Creator ever placed different races of men on this earth with the view of having the stronger exert all his energies in exterminating the weaker." Protestant and Catholic missionaries and laymen continued to spread the twin gospels of religion and civilization among the various tribes. When a Sioux delegation visited the White House, Grant spoke of the future when "the game will be gone" and of his hope that the Sioux would join other tribes and move to Indian Territory. "We would at first build houses for your chiefs and principal men, and . . . send you large herds of cattle and sheep to live upon."
Grant's foreign policy in 1872 centered on the Geneva tribunal, established the previous year to arbitrate the thorny dispute with Great Britain over the Alabama Claims. At stake were both the responsibility for past damages and future rules for neutral countries. Grant and Secretary of State Hamilton Fish debated long over the men best suited to present the United States' case. When the tribunal awarded $15.5 million to the United States, Grant and Fish celebrated their greatest foreign policy achievement.
Several minor scandals clouded the horizon in 1872, most notably at the New York City customhouse, where influence peddling by former staff aide George K. Leet came under congressional scrutiny and led to testimony from Grant's personal secretaries concerning White House encounters. While this scandal soon faded from headlines, it foreshadowed more damaging ones to come.
In his personal life, Grant watched as his children began to find their own ways in the world. Emulating the fashion of the upper class, all three older children toured Europe, forcing Grant to borrow money from friends. Left with a suddenly quiet household, Grant repeatedly urged old and newfound friends to visit the White House and the summer cottage at Long Branch, New Jersey.
About the Author
John Y. Simon is a professor of history, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale. He has written or edited, in addition to the published volumes of the Grant Papers, four books, among which is The Personal Memoirs of Julia Dent Grant.