8 Ulysses S. Grant Presidential Achievements You Need To Know
Just how effective was US President Ulysses S. Grant? Read on to get in-depth explanation of the eight incredible feats of achievement chalked by Ulysses S. Grant during his presidency from 1869 to 1877.
How Ulysses S. Grant became the 18th U.S. President
At the 1868 Republican National Convention in Chicago, Illinois, Grant was the foremost candidate for the Republican Party for the 1868 presidential election. Assisting him was Schuyler Colfax (then speaker of the House) for vice president.
Grant and Schuyler faced off with Governor Horatio Seymour of New York and Francis P. Blair of Missouri. He obtained 52.7% popular vote, beating Seymour by over 300,000 votes. At the Electoral College, Grant secured 214 votes, compared to Seymour’s 80. At just 46 years old, Grant became the youngest U.S. president till then. The President was sworn into office on March 4, 1869 by Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase.
In spite of a number of scandals that rocked his first administration, Grant defeated Senator Henry Wilson of Massachusetts in the 1872 presidential election, pulling 56% of the popular vote. He was buoyed on by the 500,000 votes from the blacks. Grant garnered 286 votes at the Electoral College, as opposed to Greeley’s 66 votes.
Major Accomplishments of President Ulysses S. Grant
The following are major accomplishments of Ulysses S. Grant during his presidency:
Established the Department of Justice
In order to effectively enforce the Reconstruction policies in the South, the Grant administration established the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) in 1870. The department came to being under the bill signed by Grant on June 22, 1870.
Grant’s pick for Attorney General was Amos T. Akerman. He then appointed Benjamin H. Bristow to serve as the nation’s first solicitor general. Both appointees were tasked to safeguard the civil rights of every American in the country. The Department of Justice worked to prosecute radical groups that violently opposed the civil rights Amendments to the Constitution (i.e. 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments).
Another very significant accomplishment of the DOJ during Grant’s presidency came in the form of prosecuting Ku Klux Klan members. Owing to department’s tireless work, the sporadic violence in the South largely abated throughout the 1870s.
Civil Rights Advocate for African-Americans
In the nutshell, Grant was arguably the first president to be very vocal about civil rights for African-Americans. Just a few days after his swearing in, Grant pushed for equal rights for blacks, allowing African-Americans to be appointed as juries and hold other judicial service jobs in Washington D.C.
And when some Southern states refused budging, Grant worked with Congress and the U.S. military to enforce civil rights laws (i.e. the Enforcement Acts between 1870 and 1871) in former Confederate states. By so doing, he protected blacks from brutal suppression in the South. He also compelled a number of Southern states to bring back their African-American legislators.
At some point in his presidency, Grant even sought to promote women’s rights and suffrage. There was also the Naturalization Act that Grant signed in 1870. The Act gave foreign blacks living in the country citizenship.
Championed the ratification of the 15th Amendment to the Constitution
Ratified on February 3, 1870, the 15th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution granted voting rights for all male citizens regardless of their race, color, or previous condition of servitude. Along with famous civil rights activist Frederick Douglas, Grant championed its ratification because he believed that it was the best way to protect the political and economic rights of the freed slaves in the South. He used the 15th Amendment to increase the political power and representation of African Americans across the nation.
He dismantled the Ku Klux Klan
Starting after the end of the American Civil War, a very radical group called the Ku Klux Klan sprouted in the South. Primarily composed of terrorists, the KKK’s goal was to halt Reconstruction efforts carried out by the federal government.
In order to counter the KKK, President Grant, in collaboration with Congress, properly resourced the Department of Justice and other federal agencies to actively go after the members of the KKK. The Grant administration was able to get about 3,000 indictments against KKK members. Over 500 convictions were subsequently secured in the courts.
By clamping down on the activities of the KKK, Grant was able to fulfill his goal of civil rights for all freed slaves. He also signed the Civil Rights Act of 1875 in order to grant greater African-American civil rights in housing and transportation. Unfortunately, virtually all the civil rights gains made during Grant’s presidency were erased after the Supreme Court ruled against the law in October 1883. This ushered in a resurgence of the KKK.
Instituted policies to protect Native Americans
Another significant accomplishment of Ulysses S. Grant’s presidency came in the form of increased protection to Native Americans. Grant streamlined America’s policy towards Native Americans. Prior to his tenure, the nation had a very disjointed policy regarding Native Americans. There were close to 500 treaties with the Native Americans. Grant sought to eliminate this by set up a comprehensive and more humane policy.
In order to accomplish this, he appointed Ely S. Parker as the Commissioner of Indian Affairs. Ely was from the Seneca tribe, making him the first Native American to hold a federal appointment.
Grant’s Indian Peace policy was one of the reasons why Indian wars fell during his presidency. Grant had always had a strong affinity for Indians and African Americans. In one of his letters to his wife Julia, Grant showed his strong empathy for the sufferings of the Indians.
Resolved the Alabama Claims amicably
The Alabama Claims of 1869 evolved around the Confederate warship CSS Alabama. The ship was built in a British shipyard during the American Civil War (1861 – 1865). After the Civil War was over, the United States filed a complaint to the United Kingdom about how the CSS Alabama violated the neutrality rule. Hence, the U.S. sought compensation from the Britain. Leading this claim was Senator Charles Summer, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Grant tasked Secretary of State Hamilton Fish to negotiate with Britain. After a number of meetings, the two countries were able to amicably resolve the issue. The Treaty of Washington and the Geneva arbitration was secured in 1872. The treaty got a thumb-ups from the Senate with a 50-20 vote. By so doing, Grant was able to avoid war with Britain.
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Delicately managed the political impasse from the 1876 Presidential election
President U.S. Grant set up an Electoral Commission to resolve the dispute that emanated from the 1876 U.S. presidential election. The dispute was over purported voting irregularities in about three Southern states. As a result of that, the race to the White House between Republican governor Rutherford B. Hayes (later 19th U.S. President) and his opponent Democrat Samuel J. Tilden (governor of New York) could not be decided on time.
Grant opted for a political solution rather than a military one. He did however state that should there be violence, he wouldn’t hesitate to deploy the army. Grant set up the Electoral Commission on January 29, 1877, tasking the commission to investigate those irregularities and come out with a verdict. In the end, Hayes was declared winner of the 1876 presidential election.
Grant also collaborated effectively with Congress to come out with the Compromise of 1877 that saw the federal government remove the last remnants of army troops in the South. This in effect caused the curtains to close in on the Reconstruction Era. Sadly, what followed was close to a century long period of Jim Crow Laws and deadly racial segregation in the South.
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Founded the Civil Service Commission
Although Grant was a brilliant general and president of the United States, his presidency (especially his second term) was marred by allegations of corruption and a host of political scandals. There were several Congressional investigations into corrupt dealings of his cabinet and executive departments. To bring accountability into his administration, Grant deployed a host of policies. One of such initiatives came in the form of the Civil Service Commission.
Grant founded the Civil Service Commission in 1871. The purpose of the commission was to eliminate nepotism and bias during the recruitment of federal officials. All prospective federal employees were required to sit for a standardized exam during their application process. The Civil Service Commission’s job in some way stemmed the rampant corruption that plagued Grant’s administration.
Other worth-mentioning achievements of Ulysses S. Grant
- In March 1872, he established the first national park – the Yellowstone National Park. The park was the first national park in the United States. It was protected under the Yellowstone National Park Protection Act, which was signed into law on 1st March 1872.
- President Grant also signed the Amnesty Act in 1872, allowing former Confederate leaders and politicians to remain in their pre-Civil War positions. This act in some way helped to calm tensions in the South.
- Ulysses S. Grant secured a free trade agreement with the Kingdom of Hawaii in 1875. The Reciprocity Treaty allowed for Hawaii to export sugar and other products to the U.S. duty free.
Quick Glimpse at Ulysses S. Grant Profile
Born – Hiram Ulysses Grant
Date and Place of Birth – April, 27, 1822, Point Pleasant, Ohio, U.S.
Date and Place of Death – July 23, 1885, Wilton, New York, U.S.
Most Famous For – Commanding General of All Union Soldiers during the Civil War; 18th President of the United States
Parents – Jesse Root Grant and Hannah Simpson Grant
Siblings – Simpson, Orvil, Jennie, Clara, and Mary
Wife – Julia Dent (married in 1843)
Children – Frederick, Ulysses Jr., Ellen, and Jesse
Education (military) –United States Military Academy (West Point, New York) (from 1839 to 1843)
Wars fought – Mexican-American War (1846 – 1848), American Civil War (1961 – 1965)
Famous Battles Fought – Battle of Vicksburg, Chattanooga, Overland Campaign, Petersburg,
Military Offices – 6th Commanding General of the U.S. Army (1864-1869); Acting U.S. Secretary of War (1867 – 1868)
President of the United States – 18th U.S. President (1869 – 1877)
Nickname – “Sam”, “U.S. Grant”, “Unconditional Surrender Grant”
Predecessor – Andrew Johnson
Successor – Rutherford B. Hayes
The only American president to be arrested
Ulysses S. Grant was the only American president to ever get a speeding ticket. The president wasn’t even driving a car, as cars hadn’t been invented by that time. President Grant was known for cruising on his carriage at very reckless speed in Washington, D.C. In 1872, the President’s luck had finally run out when he was pulled over by an African American police officer called William H. West. Grant, who apologized, was left off the hook with a warning. However, the warning seemed to do little to deter Grant from speeding. The very next day, Grant was again pulled over by West for the same speeding offence. That time around, West decided to take the President into custody. To secure his release, Grant had to pay $20 in fine.