Tag Archives: President Grant

President Grant Was Not Naive About Money

(November 20, 2019) For at least the past twenty years, historians and Ulysses Grant biographers have increasingly attributed the corruption infecting his Presidency to personal naivety. They portray him as an honest President, but one unable to discern the moral defects in the men he chose to serve with him. In truth, after the Civil War ended in 1865 he became increasingly enamored with businessmen of the Gilded Age, some of dubious and even corrupt reputations.  More importantly, he also became accustomed to leveraging such relations for personal monetary gain. By the time he became President in 1869, he fully realized how politicians could reciprocate indirectly for the generosity of wealthy “friends.”

Between 1865 and 1869 he received four homes as gifts. In 1865 Galena, Illinois purchased the $16,000 home that his family was renting during the Civil War and presented it as a gift. Since he was then working in Washington as General of the Army, however, Philadelphia also bought the Grant family a grand home at 2009 Chestnut Street that same year. It included closets full of snowy linen and dining tables set with fine silver. Grant planned to commute to Washington but the five-hour train ride quickly rendered the plan impracticable.

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As a result, future brother-in-law Abel Corbin bought Grant a Washington home on “I” Street in exchange for a $30,000 ten year note. Only four months later, however, Daniel Butterfield led a group of wealthy New Yorkers that raised a $105,000 purse, which enabled Grant to pay off Corbin and invest the balance in government bonds. After becoming President in 1869, he immediately signed a bill requiring that all federal bonds be repaid in gold, even though investors bought them with paper money that traded at a fluctuating discount to gold. During the Civil War the discount got to be as steep as 65%.  Although Boston was too far away for a home, fifty citizens of that city gave him a personal library valued at $75,000.

Shortly before Grant moved his family into the White House in 1869 he sold the “I” Street home for $40,000. Although that would have yielded a $10,000 (33%) profit, he hoped for more. Consequently, he urged Daniel Butterfield to raise another $100,000 for army buddy William T. Sherman who would become the new General of the Army and need a substantial home.  After Butterfield raised the money, Grant returned the $1,000 buyer’s deposit and instead sold the “I” Street home to Sherman for $65,000. The scheme yielded the President a $35,000 profit instead of only $10,000. Grant next appointed Butterfield to head the New York Treasury Office where Jay Gould bribed him to provide advance notice of Treasury gold sales during Gould’s attempt to corner the gold market in September 1869.

Only a few months after becoming President, Grant accepted a $35,000 Long Branch, New Jersey vacation “cottage” with twenty-seven rooms as a gift. He later appointed one of the donors as tax collector of the Port of New York, where about 70% of America’s tariffs were collected. Whenever large amounts of money funneled through a government agency in that era, some of it tended to stick to the fingers of the administrators.  Grant was well aware of the tendency. He had already appointed a brother in law as tariff collector in New Orleans, the South’s biggest duty collection point.

Grant also accepted undervalued stock in the Seneca Sandstone Company, which was scheming to be a major building materials supplier as Washington City modernized under Republican rule. Grant got stock valued at $20,000 for half price the year before he became President. He sold his shares four years later, which was nine months after he appointed the company’s founder to head the District of Columbia’s government.

Following two terms in the White House, Grant and his wife went on a triumphal World tour for thirty months. After he returned, the ex-President received the income from a $250,000 trust, which was raised through a subscription headed by the notorious Jay Gould.

President Grant’s personal secretary, Orville Babcock, was indicted as a ringleader for a group of tax collectors that took bribes from distilled spirits producers in exchange for allowing them to evade excise taxes. In response to the indictment, Grant forbade the prosecutors to strike plea bargains with participants lower in Babcock’s alleged pyramid.  He fired a prosecutor who convicted an underling in the organization and was deterred from firing the replacement when his attorney general advised it would be impolitic. Although Babcock was acquitted, Grant’s conduct dismayed Treasury Secretary Benjamin Bristow. One of Bristow’s clerks told future Supreme Court Justice John Harlan: “What has hurt Bristow worst of all and disheartened him is the final conviction that Grant himself is in the [corruption] Ring and knows all about [it].”

Grant was an overnight guest in Jay Cooke’s Philadelphia mansion and had breakfast there the very morning that Cooke’s financial empire collapsed late in 1873, triggering a five year economic depression. Cooke was the biggest contributor to Grant’s 1872 re-election campaign. Jay’s brother, Henry, headed the Seneca Sandstone Company noted above and was also on the Board of Directors of the Freedmen’s Savings Bank, which went bankrupt partly because of defaulted loans to Seneca and other Cooke companies.

In short, Grant repeatedly benefitted from crony capitalism, which appears to have tempted him to greater unethical and possibly illegal actions.

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To learn more about Grant’s presidency and support this blog read:

U. S. Grant’s Failed Presidency by Philip Leigh

Who “won” Reconstruction?

(September 10, 2019) Prager U and the American Battlefield Trust recently teamed-up to sponsor this six minute video by Princeton University’s Dr. Allen Guelzo who claims that “the North won the Civil War but the (white) South won Reconstruction.” The photo below taken forty-five years after the Civil War shows the true economic conditions of Guelzo’s supposed Southern victors. There was little change in their primitive working conditions for another thirty or forty years. As late a 1940 half of sharecroppers where white as were two thirds of tenant farmers.

Guelzo’s “Southern Victors” of Reconstruction.(circa. 1910)

Guelzo’s dominant concern is that Reconstruction failed to fully integrate four million ex-slaves into American society. That, he claims, was the aim of Republican  Reconstruction. Only after it ended in 1877 did “the South return to  . . . economic backwardness.” He argues that the region should have remained under military occupation “until a newer generation learned a newer lesson about race and rights other than white supremacy.” Additionally, he avers that “we should have gotten [Southern] land ownership into the hands of the ex-slaves” and thereby brought the South into a “free market” economy like that of the North. He gives only a passing nod to the region’s protracted poverty, which he attributes to white supremacy.

Professor Guelzo’s biggest error is his assertion that the South’s impoverishment resulted from an end to Republican Reconstruction in 1877. In reality, it was caused by the wreckage of the Civil War, twelve to seventeen years earlier. Upon returning home after their surrender the typical Confederate soldier found his family in a condition of near, or actual, starvation.

Historian David L. Cohn writes: “When there was a shortage of work stock, the few surviving animals were passed from neighbor to neighbor. [When] there was no work stock [the men] hitched themselves to the plow. By ingenuity, backbreaking toil, and cruel self-denial thousands of Southern farmers survived reconstruction . . . They received no aid from any source, nor any sympathy outside the region.” Despite population growth the South did not reach its prewar level of economic output until 1900. Not until 1950 did it regain its 73rd-percentile prewar ranking in per capita income, which was still well below the national average.

Guelzo falsely implies that anti-black racism was isolated in the South. Horace Greeley, who owned the country’s largest newspaper and was earlier a leading abolitionist, wanted  freedmen to get Southern lands in order to keep them from migrating North.   Similarly, Massachusetts Congressman George Boutwell proposed that South Carolina and Florida be reserved exclusively for blacks. President Grant’s largest campaign contributor owned the Northern Pacific Railroad, which received land grants equal to the size of Missouri, but his Party did nothing to encourage blacks to seek free western Homesteads where they were unwanted. In fact, what little land the freedmen did get came from 46 million acres of Southern Homestead lands. When a white boxer beat the reigning black heavyweight campion in 1915 the New York Tribune reported that the roar from New York’s financial district “would have done credit to a Presidential victory. . . For a moment the air was filled with hats and newspapers. Respectable businessmen pounded their unknown neighbors on the back” and acted like gleeful children.

Although it is often assumed that Republicans sponsored Southern black suffrage because of a moral impulse to promote racial equality, the bulk of the evidence suggests the Party was more interested in retaining political power.

When the Civil War ended the Party was barely ten years old. Its leaders worried that it might be strangled in its cradle if the re-admittance of Southern states into the Union failed to be managed in a way that would prevent Southerners from allying with Northern Democrats to regain control of the federal government. If all former Confederate states were admitted to the 39th Congress in December 1865 and each added member was a Democrat, the Republicans would lose their near veto-proof two-thirds majority in Congress.

Thus, the infant GOP needed to ensure that most of the new Southern senators and congressmen be Republicans. That meant that puppet governments had to be formed in the Southern states. Since there were few white Republicans in the region the Party needed to create a new constituency.

Consequently, Republicans settled on two goals. First was mandatory African-American suffrage in all former Confederate states. The Party correctly reasoned that such a mostly inexperienced electorate could be manipulated to consistently support Republican interests by way of demagoguery and political spoils. Second was to deny political power to the Southern white classes most likely to oppose Republican policies. This was achieved through disfranchisement of many former Confederates. Finally, the typical Carpetbag regime set-up an “election returning board” to count votes. As a result, the “official” vote outcomes were normally consistent with the desires of the controlling Party regardless of the actual vote.

Professor Guelzo’s video is vulnerable to many other criticisms.  Some are mentioned in the thirty-five minute audio of my July presentation at the Abbeville Institute here. Readers may also read that presentation here.

It is disappointing that Dennis Prager and the American Battlefield Trust sponsored Professor Guelzo’s corruption of history. Two of my books provide renderings undistorted by political correctness:

Southern Reconstruction by Philip Leigh

U. S. Grant’s Failed Presidency by Philip Leigh

Review of My Ulysses Grant Book

(August 20, 2019) Earlier today The Abbeville Institute released the review below of my latest book, U. S. Grant’s Failed Presidency. The reviewer is Brion McClanahan who is the author of six books including The Founding Father’s Guide to the Constitution and How Alexander Hamilton Screwed Up America. Dr. McClanahan is also a historian and speaker with a focus on America’s founding constitutional principles. Finally, he provides regular podcasts and online courses at The McClanahan Academy.

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Grant’s Failed Presidency

A review of U.S. Grant’s Failed Presidency (Shotwell Publishing, 2019) by Philip Leigh

There was a time in recent memory when thoughtful people consistently ranked U.S. Grant’s presidency as one of the worst in history. The scandals, military Reconstruction, the mistreatment of the Plains Indian tribes, and the poor economy during the 1870s wrecked his reputation. That all began to change when “social justice” took center stage in the historical profession and Republican Party partisans sought to revitalize the dismal reputation of one of their most important presidents. After all, Grant was a Republican, and men like Karl Rove and Dinesh D’Souza will never grow tired of telling people it was the Republicans who saved America from those evil Southern traitors.

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More importantly, historians like Ron Chernow, whose critically acclaimed biography of the 18th President sits on bookshelves across the United States, have sought to refocus attention on Grant’s “successes” rather than failures. Chernow places special emphasis on Grant’s attempts to protect former slaves during Reconstruction rather than the scandals which rocked not only his administration but which destroyed the United States economy and smacked of crony capitalism and the corruption that undergirds the practice. This type of feel good revisionism is part of a broad push to revitalize the reputations of the “active” presidents in American history, men like Polk and Jackson, those that embody the antithesis of what the founding generation designed for the executive branch.

This new love for U.S. Grant is unfounded. Philip Leigh provides a quick and punchy rebuttal to this hagiographic Grant revisionism in his U.S. Grant’s Failed Presidency.

Using the same sources as the revisionists, Leigh takes apart the thesis that Grant wanted to “protect” minorities in the United States. Leigh conclusively illustrates that like most Republicans at the time Grant’s sympathy for freedmen had to do more with winning elections than moral obligation or chivalry. Grant would not have won the popular vote in 1868 without the freedman vote, and both he and the Republican Party knew it. Leigh points to Republican policy toward American Indians and Chinese immigrants as proof of Republican hypocrisy on the issue of “civil rights.”

Leigh also argues that Grant had more to do with the economic corruption of the period than most realize. He gladly pursued both physical and economic reconstruction, promoted the interests of the Republican monied class and turned a blind eye to the rampant corruption among Northern “carpetbaggers” in militarily occupied Dixie. There is a reason Grant was shown in an infamous political cartoon as a conquering emperor riding on the back of the barefoot South in a carpetbag supported by United States troops. Leigh considers that to be the real Grant, not the trumped up image pushed by Ron Chernow.

This nicely illustrates that the protectors of the American empire on both the left and the right have a vested interest in promoting the imperial presidency as a sort of good tyrant king. To them, Grant could be a Pericles riding to the rescue of the American experiment, the great citizen general who rid America of the backward agrarian Southern Spartans.

Except Grant was never that magnanimous or heroic, and his presidency was little more than a political rubber stamp for the revolutionaries who were radically remaking American society in the 1860s and 1870s. Leigh contends that you can’t understand Reconstruction without understanding Grant. That is certainly true.

It might be easy to have a tinge of sympathy for Grant, the uncouth general who never cared for politics, voted Democrat, but through war was elevated to the presidency in one of most bitterly partisan eras of American history. Grant, according to this interpretation, was a Victim, an unwilling participant in a larger drama over the spoils of war. Leigh paints a different picture, a Grant that understood the stakes and actively pursued a partisan agenda with Republican victory more important than principles or the Constitution. In other words, Grant was like every other “active” president in the imperial era, and like Lincoln chose party over union and the Constitution.

There had to be winners and losers, and Grant ensured the South was not only defeated but punished. That was Grant’s decades long legacy south of the Mason-Dixon, and even in the North, his adherence to the radical Republican agenda helped give rise to the populist revolt of the 1890s.

The original historical presidential rankings with Grant near the bottom may be the only time I agree with the “establishment” assessment of the American executive. Grant should be perpetually buried at the bottom.

Leigh has added a nice counterweight to the modern attempt to portray Grant as some type of righteous cause acolyte deserving of fawning praise.

If you’re looking for a concise history of the Grant administration without the modern propensity for over-saturated “presentism,” skip Chernow and read Leigh. It is by far the best summary of his administration in the last half-century.

U. S. Grant Appointees Bankrupt Freedman’s Bank

(July 12, 2019) The excerpt below is from my newest book, U. S. Grant’s Failed PresidencyGrant was first elected President in 1868 and served two terms from 1869 – 1877 during which his Administration was connected to at least ten scandals. Today’s episode involves malfeasance at the Freedman’s Savings Bank. The online excerpt excludes photographs and footnotes. Copies of the book are available at Amazon.

Freedman’s Savings Bank Bankruptcy

Another scandal unearthed by the economic depression triggered by the  1873 Jay Cooke & Company failure culminated with the collapse of the Freedman’s Savings Bank in February 1874. Congress created the bank, along with the Freedman’s Bureau, in March 1865. It was designed to help former slaves concentrate their savings into a putatively trustworthy bank instead of distributing their deposits among a variety of often inexperienced and sometimes fraudulent banks. The bank aggressively solicited depositors who were limited to ex-slaves and their descendants. Although the federal government did not guarantee the deposits of any financial institution, the bank’s advertisements included images of Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses Grant and William T. Sherman, which suggested otherwise to the inexperienced freedmen. At its peak the bank had thirty-four branches in seventeen states as well as the District of Columbia. It was one of America’s first multistate banks. By 1870, blacks managed nearly all of the branches.

Since the federal government failed to give free homesteads to former slaves, the freedmen were encouraged to deposit their savings at the Freedman’s Bank where they might one day accumulate enough savings to buy farms. Given such a mission the bank initially made only conservative investments such as U. S. Treasury securities. Like other working Americans, the freedmen conscientiously saved their nickels and dimes. Unlike presently, Gilded Age Americans saved a big part of their income as savings rates averaged almost one-quarter of the Gross National Product.

Unfortunately, after the bank’s headquarters moved from New York to Washington in 1868, its mostly white board of trustees increasingly came under the influence of politically connected connivers. In 1870 alderman Alexander Shepherd led a movement to combine Georgetown, Washington City and the rest of the District into a unified Territorial Government. He succeeded in January 1871. The next month Grant appointed Henry Cooke—Washington branch manager of brother Jay’s investment bank—as the territorial governor. As a close Henry Cooke associate, Shepherd won a coveted post on a territorial government board from which he could control the District’s multimillion-dollar public works spending.

In 1870 Freedman’s Bank trustees persuaded Congress to amend its charter in order to permit commercial loans. Henry Cooke and other Shepherd colleagues soon controlled the bank’s lending portfolio. Among Shepherd’s 1873 initiatives popular with voters who paid little in direct taxes was an ambitious spending program to modernize the capital city. Partly because of strong support among non-taxpaying black voters, Shepherd got a bond referendum approved to finance the expenditures. The District’s mostly white taxpayers and property owners, however, were horrified by the ballooning debt.

A year later the $6 million initiative had already exceeded $9 million. When local taxpayers complained of losing properties for tax deficiencies caused by the unsustainable spending, the House of Representatives formed a bi-partisan investigative committee. It learned that the program’s chief beneficiary was a ring of Shepherd business associates and real estate developers.

The District went into bankruptcy after an audit revealed its bills were $13 million in arrears in 1874. The Freedman’s Bank was among the casualties. It had invested heavily in Washington real estate in response to the temporary boom triggered by Shepherd’s unsustainable spending.

One of the bad loans was to the Seneca Sandstone Company, which Henry Cooke had organized in 1866. Much like Congressman Ames would later do for Crédit Mobilier, Cooke sold shares to influential Republican politicians at half price. Among the buyers was General Ulysses Grant whose stock was valued at $20,000. Grant purchased the shares a year before he was elected President and sold them four years later, six months after appointing Henry Cooke as D.C.’s Territorial Governor.

Under Henry Cooke’s authority, the bank also started lending money directly to Jay Cooke & Company, which offered worthless bonds in the affiliated Northern Pacific Railroad as collateral. Only months before the Freedman’s Bank collapsed, Jay Cooke had been Grant’s leading financial donor during the President’s 1872 reelection campaign.

Upon closing its doors 1874 the bank had nominal deposits of about $3 million. In reality, however, it had only $31,000 to return to 61,000 depositors. Boss Shepherd moved his family to Mexico in 1876 after declaring personal bankruptcy. The District did not completely repay the Shepherd era debts until 1916.

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Grant Money

(July 6, 2019) Although most biographers credit him with good conduct during the Mexican War, afterwards Ulysses Grant’s first military career went downhill. In 1854 he resigned a Captaincy due to alcoholism. After returning to his wife and children in St. Louis from a California military post, he transitioned into a period of seven lean years. Notwithstanding the slave labor and family connections provided by his father-in-law he failed at various farming and commercial ventures in St. Louis. Thus, at age thirty-eight in 1860 he moved his family to Illinois where he went to work for two younger brothers in a Galena leather goods store owned by his absentee father, Jesse. Years earlier Jesse had bluntly told Ulysses, “West Point spoiled one of my boys for business.”

When the Civil War came the following year Ulysses began a period of seven fat years that culminated with his election as President in 1868. But he and his wife Julia never forgot the lean years. They were both sensitively aware of opportunities to profit from his status.

Between 1865 and 1869 he received four homes as gifts. In 1865 Galena purchased the $16,000 home that his family was renting and presented it as a gift.

Since the general was working in Washington, however, Philadelphia also bought the Grant family a grand home at 2009 Chestnut Street, in 1865. It included closets full of snowy linen and dining tables set with fine silver. Grant planned to commute to Washington but the five-hour train ride quickly rendered the plan impracticable.

As a result, future brother-in-law Abel Corbin bought Grant a Washington home on “I” Street in exchange for a $30,000 ten year note. Only four months later, however, wealthy New Yorkers raised a $105,000 purse, which enabled Grant to pay-off Corbin and invest the balance in government bonds. His first act as President in 1869 was to sign a bill requiring that all U. S. bonds be repaid in gold, even though investors bought them with paper money that traded at a fluctuating discount to gold.  Although Boston was too far away for a home, fifty citizens of that city gave him a personal library valued at $75,000.

Shortly before Grant moved his family into the White House in 1869 he sold the “I” Street home for $40,000. Although that would have yielded a $10,000 (33%) profit, he hoped to get more. Consequently, he urged the ringleader of the $105,000 subscription four years earlier to raise $100,000 for army buddy William T. Sherman who would become the new General of the Army and need a substantial home.  After the money was raised for Sherman, Grant returned the $1,000 buyer’s deposit and instead sold the “I” Street home to Sherman for $65,000. The scheme yielded the President a $35,000 profit instead of only $10,000.

Only a few months after becoming President, Grant accepted a $35,000 Long Branch, New Jersey vacation “cottage” with twenty-seven rooms as a gift.

Grant also accepted undervalued stock in the Seneca Sandstone Company, which was hoping to be a major building materials supplier as Washington City modernized under Republican rule. Grant got stock valued at $20,000 for half price the year before he became President. He sold his shares four years later, which was nine months after he appointed the company’s founder to head the District of Columbia’s government.

Following two terms in the White House, Grant and his wife went on a triumphal World tour for thirty months. After he returned, the ex-President received the income from a $250,000 trust, which was raised through a subscription headed by the notorious Jay Gould.

Those wanting to learn more may consider buying my newest book, U. S. Grant’s Failed Presidency

Review: U. S. Grant’s Failed Presidency

Cotton Boll Conspiracy Blog – 4/15/2019

All the lipstick in the world can’t pretty up the Grant presidency

Historians revise history constantly. That’s a key component of the job: seeking out and assessing new information, considering and reconsidering the motives of participants, and pondering the authenticity of documents and other accounts.

But revising history is different from “rewriting” history, which involves ascribing positive or negative motives to actors based on predetermined outcomes, ignoring information that contradicts those preordained outcomes or faulting historical figures by holding them to modern standards and values incompatible with the past.

This is evident in recent analyses of Ulysses Grant’s presidency. Grant, the Union general who served as president from 1869 to 1877, was graded near the bottom of U.S. presidents just 70 years ago, ranking No. 28 of 30 chief executives in 1948. Conversely, in 2017 Grant was rated No. 22 of 43.

This is curious, given that unlike such presidents as Franklin Roosevelt, John Kennedy and Richard Nixon, Grant’s Administration didn’t have the benefit of classifying secret information for decades. In other words, it’s not like a horde of secret files were released 75 years or a century after Grant left office, giving historians solid reasons to reassess his presidency.

Grant’s eight years in the Oval Office is the subject of Philip Leigh’s last book, U.S. Grant’s Failed Presidency (published by Shotwell Publishing, 2019)

Ulysses S. Grant and his family, Long Branch, New Jersey, 1870

Leigh ascribes Grant’s revival to two factors: Modern historians tendency to focus on the racial aspects of Reconstruction – and to ascribe egalitarian motives to Grant’s decisions when they were almost certainly political in nature – and an inclination to minimize or even overlook the corruption that was a hallmark of his presidency, including concerns that Grant himself was involved in the graft.

Today’s historians, many of whom came of age during or after the 1960s and the Civil Rights movement, too often fail to critically evaluate Grant’s motives for supporting black civil rights, particularly voting rights, during Reconstruction, Leigh writes.

“His policy is commonly portrayed as a noble stand for racial equality. They fail to adequately examine evidence that his prime motive may have been to gain the political power that a routinely obedient voting bloc could provide to Republican candidates,” Leigh states.

Grant was opposed to black suffrage at the end of the War Between the States, but by 1868 he was warbling a different tune. That change, however, did not encompass extending the franchise to other minorities such as Native Americans and Chinese Americans. The Republican Party was less than two decades old when Grant was first elected and securing a compliant voting base to help the party become established was crucial to its long-term survival.

Regarding integrity, the Grant Administration’s ethical lapses rival those of the Harding, Nixon and Clinton administrations.

There were at least 10 major scandals during Grant’s two terms, including a gold speculation ring that resulted in the nation’s economy spiraling into a recession, the Whisky Ring, in which whisky distillers bribed Treasury Department officials who then aided the distillers in evading taxes, and the breach of the Treaty of Fort Laramie, when Grant, seeking a means to get the country out of the Depression of 1873, approved an 1,000-troop expedition into the Black Hills, sacred land of the Lakota Indians where gold had been discovered. Grant appointed a commission to buy mining rights from the Sioux, but the commission reported that force was necessary to begin negotiations. Grant proceeded to launch an illegal war against the Plains Indians, then lied to Congress and the American people about it.

Corruption would be discovered in seven federal departments: including the Navy, Justice, War, Treasury, Interior State and Post Office. Nepotism was prevalent, with more than 40 of Grant’s family members benefiting from government appointments and employment. And several of Grant’s close aides and cabinet officials were indicted.

Grant himself exhibited dubious standards which, were a politician to act similarly today would surely end their career and possibly result in prison time. In 1866, prior to entering public service, Grant accepted a $30,000 home in Washington, D.C., raised through public subscription that netted the general $100,000 in all.

When Grant was ready to move into the White House, he initially agreed to a deal to sell the home for $40,000. Treasury Secretary designee Alexander Stewart led a subscription to purchase the home for $65,000 for Union General William T. Sherman. When the money was raised, Grant turned his back on the agreement with the first buyer and pocketed the $35,000 difference, according to Leigh.

Six months into his first term, Grant accepted a vacation home on the New Jersey coast. The 27-room structure cost $35,000, money raised by seven donors, including a Philadelphia newspaper owner and the owner of the Pullman Co., which manufactured railroad cars, according to Leigh.

A century and a half after Grant became chief executive the office of the president has changed so much that contrasting mid-19th century presidential administrations and those of today is extremely difficult. The manner in which information was recorded and archived (or, as in the past, wasn’t archived), and the present access to public information, inadequate but a far cry from that of the 1860s and ‘70s, make an apples-to-apples comparison impossible, for example.

Still, Grant’s Administration was a marked period of corruption, when speculators and rouges fleeced both the public trust and the public treasury, while the common citizen, whether white or black, worked diligently just to simply keep their heads above water.

U.S. Grant’s Failed Presidency is a well-done, easily understood work. In it, Philip Leigh cuts through the presentism that pervades so much current historical writing and examines the facts of 1869-1877, delivering an appropriately unflattering appraisal of Ulysses Grant’s eight years in office.