quotes by ulysses s. grant

“What General Lee’s feelings were I do not know. As he was a man of much dignity, with an impassible face, it was impossible to say whether he felt inwardly glad that the end had finally come, or felt sad over the result, and was too manly to show it. Whatever his feelings, they were entirely concealed from my observation; but my own feelings, which had been quite jubilant on the receipt of his letter, were sad and depressed. I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse. I do not question, however, the sincerity of the great mass of those who were opposed to us.”

– Ulysses S. Grant, As Quoted in Personal Memoirs of General U. S. Grant    

Hush, Julia. Do not say another word on this subject. I would not distress these people. They are feeling their defeat bitterly, and you would not add to it by witnessing their despair, would you?
—  Ulysses S. Grant, to his wife, Julia, when she urged him to be more enthusiastic in celebration of the surrender of Robert E. Lee at the end of the Civil War

July 23rd 1885: Ulysses S. Grant dies

On this day in 1885, former Civil War general and 18th President of the United States Ulysses S. Grant died. He became a national icon after he led the Union to victory over Robert E. Lee’s Confederate forces in the Civil War and secured Lee’s surrender at Appomattox in 1865. He became President in 1869, and enforced Reconstruction and civil rights laws. However, his presidency was marred by stories of his alcoholism and corruption in his administration. He left the office in 1877, and launched an unsuccessful bid for a third term in 1880. In 1885 he died of throat cancer at the age of 63 and his body lay in state.

“I hope that nobody will be distressed on my account.”
- Grant’s last words

“We should abstain from enforcing our views upon unwilling nations” 

“As the United States is the freest of all nations, so, too, its people sympathize with all people struggling for liberty and self-government; but while so sympathizing it is due to our honor that we should abstain from enforcing our views upon unwilling nations and from taking an interested part, without invitation, in the quarrels between different nations or between governments and their subjects. Our course should always be in conformity with strict justice and law, international and local.”

– Ulysses S. Grant, As Quoted in First State of the Union Address

I know Grant thoroughly. I had ample opportunity to study him when I was President, and I am convinced he is the greatest farce that was ever thrust upon a people. Why, the little fellow – excuse me for using that expression, but I can’t help pitying him – the little fellow has nothing in him. He hasn’t a single idea. He had no policy, no conception of what the country requires. He don’t understand the philosophy of a single great question, and is completely lost in trying to understand his situation. He is mendacious, cunning, and treacherous…

I tell you, sir, Grant is nothing more than a bundle of petty spites, jealousies, and resentments. And yet they say Grant is a second Washington. Only think of it, when you compare him with Washington or Jefferson, where is he? Why he is so small you must put your finger on him. He, a little upstart, a coward, physically and intellectually, to be compared to George Washington! Why, it makes me laugh…

Grant has nothing. Physically and mentally and morally he is a nonentity. Why, sir, his soul is so small that you could put it within the periphery of a hazel nutshell and it might float about for a thousand years without knocking against the walls of the shell. That’s the size of his soul…

He has no idea, no policy, no standard, no creed, no faith. How can he guide the people? How can he impress any great improvements or moral ideas upon the nation?…The little fellow has come to think he is somebody really. I can’t help pitying him when I think how well I know him and what an infinitessimal creature he really is…

—  Andrew Johnson, totally dissing Ulysses S. Grant in an interview with the New York Herald shortly after Grant succeeded him as President, June 27, 1869

August 31st 1895: Ely Parker dies

On this day in 1895, Ely S. Parker, the first Native American Commissioner of Indian Affairs, died in Connecticut aged sixty-seven. Born Hosanoanda at Indian Falls, an Indian reservation near Akron, New York, he was the son of a Seneca chief. Taking the name Ely Samuel Parker, he studied at a Baptist boarding school and eventually mastered English and became an interpreter, assisting Seneca tribal delegations to Washington DC seeking to regain land titles. He went on to study to be a lawyer, but was denied admittance to the New York state bar as Indians were not classed as citizens of the United States; Parker instead became a civil engineer. At the outbreak of Civil War, Parker struggled to receive an army commission, but eventually joined the war effort on the Union side, quickly climbing the ranks and becoming General Ulysses S. Grant’s military secretary. In this role, Parker drafted the terms of Confederate surrender at Appomattox, where General Robert E. Lee said to Parker “I am glad to see one real American here”, to which Parker replied “We are all Americans.” Parker’s friendship with Grant continued - the general was best man at his wedding - and in 1869 President Grant made Parker Commissioner of Indian Affairs. The first Native American to hold the office, Parker spearheaded Grant’s ‘Peace Policy’, which aimed to end the constant Indian wars and assimilate Native Americans through reservations and boarding schools. However, Parker was accused of corruption and resigned from office. After pursuing a career in business, Ely Parker died in August 1895.

“A son will be born to you who will be distinguished among his nation as a peacemaker…he will be a wise white man, but will never desert his Indian people or lay down his horns as a great Iroquois chief…His sun will rise on Indian land and set on the white man’s land.
- a Seneca dream interpreter to Parker’s mother shortly before his birth

Ulysses S. Grant On The People Of America: What Would He think Of Our Multi-Cultural, Multi-Lingual America Now?

“Prior to the rebellion the great mass of the people were satisfied to remain near the scenes of their birth. In fact an immense majority of the whole people did not feel secure against coming to want should they move among entire strangers. So much was the country divided into small communities that localized idioms had grown up, so that you could almost tell what section a person was from by hearing him speak… This is all changed now. The war begot a spirit of independence and enterprise. The feeling now is, that a youth must cut loose from his old surroundings to enable him to get up in the world. There is now such a commingling of the people that particular idioms and pronunciation are no longer localized to any great extent; the country has filled up “from the centre all around to the sea”; railroads connect the two oceans and all parts of the interior; maps, nearly perfect, of every part of the country are now furnished the student of geography.”

– Ulysses S. Grant, As Quoted in Personal Memoirs of General U. S. Grant