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President Ulysses S. Grant: Known for Scandals, Overlooked for Achievements

April 24, 2020 in History

By Greg Daugherty

The Civil War hero left the White House under a cloud, but he also had substantial achievements—like passing the 15th Amendment.

For decades after his death in 1885, Ulysses S. Grant suffered a reputation as one of the nation’s worst presidents, consistently ranking in the bottom 10 in polls of historians. But in more recent years, historians have taken another look at the Civil War hero. Popular biographies, such as Ronald C. White’s American Ulysses (2016) and Ron Chernow’s Grant (2017), have made compelling cases that Grant’s presidency merits reexamination, and that his contributions while in office were more substantial than he’s been given credit for in previous decades. At a time when the nation was still recovering from the trauma of civil war, he worked to knit together the frayed Union, lift up formerly enslaved people and advocate a humane, if not enlightened, policy regarding Native Americans.

No one might be more surprised by this reputational revival than Grant himself. His autobiography, published in two volumes in 1885, covers some 1,200 pages, beginning with a discussion of his ancestors and ending with his Civil War years. His presidency is hardly mentioned.

Grant’s farewell message to Congress in 1876 shows he sensed that history might judge him harshly. “Mistakes have been made, as all can see and I admit,” he wrote. “But I leave comparisons to history, claiming only that I have acted in every instance from a conscientious desire to do what was right, constitutional, within the law, and for the very best interests of the whole people. Failures have been errors of judgment, not of intent.”

Two years later, the New York Sun put it another way, calling Grant “the most corrupt President who ever sat in the chair of Washington.”

So how good (or bad) president was he? Here is some of the historical evidence.

READ MORE: 10 Things You May Not Know About Ulysses S. Grant

A swirl of scandals

There’s no denying that Grant left office under a very large cloud. From beginning to end, his Administration produced a swirl of scandals. While none rose to the notoriety of a Watergate or Teapot Dome, their sheer numbers must have been dizzying to Americans at the time.

Grant dressed as a trapeze performer holds up corrupt members of his administration in this 1880 political cartoon.

Grant’s attorney general, secretary of war, secretary of the navy …read more

Source: HISTORY

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When WWI, Pandemic and Slump Ended, Americans Sprung Into the Roaring Twenties

April 24, 2020 in History

By Dave Roos

After enduring dark times, Americans were eager for a comeback.

The unprecedented death and destruction wrought by World War I leveled economies the world over, but the situation was different in the United States.

In fact, 1914 to 1918 were mostly boom years for the U.S. as the federal government poured money into the wartime economy. Previously a debtor nation, the U.S. emerged from the war as a chief lender and arguably the strongest and most vibrant economy in the world.

But even that wartime boom doesn’t fully explain what happened next. Somehow, despite a global flu pandemic that killed 675,000 Americans in 1918 and 1919, and a depression that gutted the economy in 1920 and 1921, the United States not only recovered but entered into a decade of unprecedented growth and prosperity. Americans began a spending spree: the Roaring Twenties was on.

The Spanish Flu Was Deadlier Than WWI (TV-PG; 5:42)

WATCH: The Spanish Flu Was Deadlier Than WWI

The ‘Boomlet’ Before the Bust

The Federal Reserve, created in 1913, flexed its monetary policy muscles for the first time during World War I. Since the American public was unwilling to fund the war effort through taxes, the Fed did it by printing more money. The result by 1918 was runaway inflation. A pair of shoes that cost $3 before the war now cost $10 or $12.

Economists predicted a post-war crash as military factory orders dried up after the 1918 Armistice. Compounding the end of the wartime economy was the spread of the so-called “Spanish flu,” a virulent contagion which not only killed hundreds of thousands of Americans from the fall of 1918 to the spring of 1919, but shuttered businesses from coast to coast.

Incredibly, the dire post-war economic predictions didn’t come true. At least not immediately. American consumers, who had patriotically scrimped and saved during wartime, began to live it up. Europeans also joined in, purchasing $8 billion in exports from America. Inflation ticked upward, and so did prices, but consumers were willing to pay anything for a taste of freedom.

“Instead of the deflationary slump widely expected, the economy experienced an inflationary boomlet, and everybody exhaled,” says James Grant, the author of The Forgotten Depression: 1921: The Crash that Cured Itself. “The inevitable did happen, but it didn’t happen on schedule.”

Not ‘Great,’ But Still a Depression

Interior of New York Stock Exchange, circa 1920.

To combat …read more

Source: HISTORY