Hiram Ulysses Grant owned one slave, his wife’s father owned many…#218

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During this country Black Lives Matter and other National events as you know I have given thought to what truly happen in those years and the past in general.   I believe that the Presidents and Blacks that owned Slaves did not end with the Civil War, as it has been within us like a volcano in the earth, waiting to erupt.  The intent of Slavery for both the white and black man was money, the number of acreage and slaves meant wealth.  Some political.  The problems with America lies within the confined lives of many Americans today, this current series follows the lives of many who denied their part in slavery or today’s BLM, violence, death and destruction  throughout America.

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Hiram Ulysses Grant eighteenth President was born in Point Pleasant, Ohio, in 1822.  His ancestors Matthew and Priscilla Grant arrived aboard the ship Mary and John at Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1630.   Grant’s great-grandfather fought in the French and Indian War, and his grandfather, Noah, served in the American Revolution at Bunker Hill.  A history of “fighters”. 

Grant graduated West Point in 1843, ranked 21st out of 39 in his class and was promoted the next day to the rank brevet second lieutenant. Grant planned to resign his commission after his four-year term of duty. He would later write to a friend that among the happiest days of his life were the day he left the presidency and the day he left the academy.  The man, who made history, hated it!

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Grant became engaged to, Julia Boggs Dent, in 1844.  Four years later, they were married at Julia’s home in St. Louis. Grant’s abolitionist father disapproved of the Dents owning slaves and neither of Grant’s parents attended the wedding.  After the wedding, Grant obtained a two-month extension to his leave and returned to St. Louis when he decided, with a wife to support, that he would remain in the army.

Julia Boggs Dent was born in 1826 at White Haven plantation west of St. Louis, Missouri. Her parents were Frederick Dent, a slaveholding planter and merchant, and Ellen Wrenshall Dent.  Frederick enslaved about 30 Africans and refused to consider freeing them on moral grounds, doing so only when compelled by law of emancipation. Julia was distantly related to confederate General James Longstreet.

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U.S. Grant married into a family that owned slaves. Love is blind, so they say, in fact, slaves constructed his home near his father-in-law’s plantation, and there came a time when he supervised those slaves on his wife’s familial plantation.  Grant disapproved of slavery, yet, instead of building his home using hired labor, he used slaves.  He disapproved of slavery, yet, he took a job supervising slaves on his father-in-law’s plantation.

Promoted to a Union Captain in 1853, Grant was assigned to command at the newly constructed Fort Humboldt in California.  Separated from his wife and family, Grant began to drink.  Grant was ask to resign in 1854.  

At age 32, with no civilian vocation, Grant needed work to support his growing family. It was the beginning of seven years of financial struggles, poverty, and instability.  Grant’s father offered him a place in the Galena, Illinois, branch of the family’s leather business, but demanded Julia and the children stay in Missouri, with the Dents, or with the Grants in Kentucky. Grant and Julia declined the offer. In 1855, Grant farmed, using Julia’s slave Dan, on his brother-in-law’s property.  The farm was not successful and to earn a living he sold firewood on St. Louis street corners.

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The next year, the Grants moved to land on Julia’s father’s farm, and built a home called “Hardscrabble”. Julia described the rustic house as an “unattractive cabin”, but made the dwelling as homelike as possible with the family’s keepsakes and other belongings.  Grant’s family lacked money, clothes, and furniture, but always had enough food. Finally, he moved his family to his father-in-laws 850 acre plantation.  He did not believe in slavery, but he lived on land they worked and suffered. Grant owned one slave, he freed him by a manumission deed, in 1857.  

The same year, Grant acquired a slave from his father-in-law, a thirty-five-year-old man named William Jones. Although Grant was not an abolitionist, he was not considered a “slavery man”, and could not bring himself to force a slave to do work.


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In 1860, Grant and his family moved north to Galena, Illinois, accepting a position in his father’s leather goods business run by his younger brothers Simpson and Orvil.   In a few months, Grant paid off his debts.  When the American Civil War began Grant re-enlisted as a Captain when Lincoln called for 75.000 volunteers.

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So the killing of father against father, brother against brother begins.  In the end, Grant ordered a general assault on Lee’s entrenched forces. Union troops captured Richmond.   Grant was in communication with Lee before he entrusted his aide Orville Babcock to carry his last dispatch to Lee requesting his surrender with instructions to escort him to a meeting place of Lee’s choosing.  Grant immediately rode west, bypassing Lee’s army, to join Sheridan who had captured Appomattox Station, blocking Lee’s escape route. On his way, Grant received a letter sent by Lee informing him that he was ready to surrender.

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Grant campaigned for the office of president.  The Democrats and their Klan supporters focused mainly on ending Reconstruction intimidating Blacks, and returning control of the South to the white Democrats and the planter class, alienating War Democrats in the North.  Grant won the popular vote by 300,000 votes out of 5,716,082 votes cast, receiving an Electoral College landslide of 214 votes to Seymour’s 80.   Seymour received a majority of white votes, but Grant was aided by 500,000 votes cast by blacks, winning him the popular vote. At the age of 46, Grant was the youngest president yet elected, and the first president after the nation had outlawed slavery.

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On March 4, 1869, Grant was sworn in as the eighteenth President of the United States by Chief Justice Salmon P. Chase. In his inaugural address, Grant urged the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment, while large numbers of African Americans attended his inauguration.

Grant was considered an effective civil rights president, concerned about the plight of African Americans.   On March 18, 1869, Grant signed into law equal rights for blacks, to serve on juries and hold office, in Washington D.C., and in 1870 he signed into law the Naturalization Act that gave foreign blacks citizenship.  

During his first term, Reconstruction took precedence. Republicans controlled most Southern states, propped up by Republican controlled Congress, northern money, and southern military occupation. Grant advocated the ratification of the Fifteenth Amendment that said states could not disenfranchise African Americans.   

The Union freed the slaves, but then fought to enslave the Native Americans.

When Grant took office in 1869, the nation’s policy towards Native Americans was in chaos, affecting more than 250,000 Native Americans being governed by 370 treaties.   In 1871, Grant ended the sovereign tribal treaty system; by law individual Native Americans were deemed wards of the federal government.  

After gold was discovered and trespassing occurred on Sioux protected lands, Sioux chiefs readied for war.   On November 3, 1875, Grant held a meeting at the White House and, under advice from Sheridan, Grant agreed not to enforce keeping out miners from the Black Hills, and to force “hostile” Native Americans onto the Sioux reservation.

In October 1876, Grant convinced the tribes to relinquish the Black Hills to miners. Congress ratified the agreement three days before Grant left office in 1877.  Relinquish the Black Hills, no; the U.S. government stole the Black Hills from the Native American, who would free the Indians?

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When Grant left office he was nearly broke and worried constantly about leaving his wife a suitable amount of money to live on. Century magazine offered Grant a book contract with a royalty, but Grant’s friend Mark Twain, understanding how bad Grant’s financial condition was, made him an offer for his memoirs which paid Grant three-quarters royalty.   

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To provide for his family, Grant worked intensely on his memoirs at his home in New York City.  Because of the summer heat and humidity, his doctors recommended that he move upstate to a cottage at the top of Mount McGregor, offered by a family friend.  Grant finished his memoir and died only a few days later. 

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 President Grover Cleveland ordered a thirty-day nationwide period of mourning. After private services, the honor guard placed Grant’s body on a special funeral train, which traveled to West Point and New York City. A quarter of a million people viewed it in the two days before the funeral. Tens of thousands of men, many of them veterans from the Grand Army of the Republic, marched with Grant’s casket drawn by two dozen black stallions to Riverside Park in the Morningside Heights neighborhood of Upper Manhattan. His pallbearers included Union generals Sherman and Sheridan, Confederate generals Simon Bolivar Buckner and Joseph E. Johnston, Admiral David Dixon Porter, and Senator John A. Logan, the head of the GAR

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Attendance at the New York funeral topped 1.5 million.   Ceremonies were held in other major cities around the country, while Grant was eulogized in the press and likened to George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.   Grant’s body was laid to rest in Riverside Park, first in a temporary tomb, and then—twelve years later, on April 17, 1897—in the General Grant National Memorial, also known as “Grant’s Tomb”, the largest mausoleum in North America.


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