Saturday, October 7, 2017

Grant

.... His overall priority as president was to support vigorously the policy of Reconstruction. When many white southerners tried to deny freed slaves their rights, he unhesitatingly sent in federal troops to enforce the law. When the newly organized Ku Klux Klan launched what Chernow calls “the worst outbreak of domestic terrorism in American history,” Grant suspended habeas corpus, declared martial law and fought for legislation aimed at the Klan. He was “sure-footed,” Chernow writes, “when it came to protecting freed people. … He knew that the Klan threatened to unravel everything he and Lincoln and Union soldiers had accomplished at great cost in blood and treasure.” ....

The end of Grant’s presidency found him without a home, money, or plans. He and Julia took a two-year trip around the world, during which he was feted as a hero in capitals from Europe to Asia. Settling in New York, he was snared by a Wall Street scam that left him financially bereft. Having nothing to leave Julia, he agreed to write several articles and eventually a memoir of his wartime service. His friend Mark Twain, a former Confederate soldier, realized what a hit his work would be and arranged a highly remunerative book deal that assured Julia’s security. Grant devoted himself to the project, correcting the public record where necessary and otherwise telling the story through his own experiences. By now, he was dying of a painful cancer in his throat, but he persisted, showing the same courage he had displayed in the war; he finished his manuscript only days before his death. The memoir sold 300,000 copies, a huge number for the time. It also came to be seen as a great literary achievement, perhaps the greatest memoir of any American president.