The Presidency of Ulysses S. Grant

Charles W. Calhoun

Choice Outstanding Academic Title

As controversial in politics as he was in the military, Ulysses S. Grant (1822–1885) was an embattled president, enormously popular with the American people, yet the target of unrelenting censure by political enemies. For the first time in almost a century, this book by the distinguished historian Charles W. Calhoun examines Grant’s administration in depth, offering a fresh look at the 18th president’s policies and actions during his two terms in office (1869–1877).

“Calhoun’s work deserves to educate the public as to how a general can ride a wave of popular support to change the nation while avoiding demagoguery.

—The History

“Calhoun traces Grant’s transformation from a celebrated general to an emerging politico who shrewdly survived the period when Andrew Johnson’s presidency was rendered irrelevant. The hefty goals of interrogating the well-established historical negatives of Grant’s presidency demands nothing less than the diligent methodology of a disciplined investigator—and Calhoun delivers.

—Congress & the Presidency
See all reviews...

Most biographers focus on Grant’s military career, giving less attention to the significant and complex questions that marked his presidential terms. These concerns, the issues of politics and governance, are at the core of this book. As a political historian with a vast knowledge of nineteenth-century America and an extensive array of original sources at his command, Calhoun approaches Grant’s presidency not as an incongruous or inconsequential sequel to his military career but instead as the polestar of American public life during a crucial decade in the nation's political development. He explores Grant’s leadership style and traces his contributions to the office of president, including creating a White House staff, employing modern technology to promote the mobility of the presidency, and developing strong ties with congressional leaders to enhance executive influence over legislation.

The Presidency of Ulysses S. Grant provides a detailed discussion of the administration’s endeavors in a variety of areas—Reconstruction and civil rights, economic policy, the Peace Policy for Native Americans, foreign policy, and civil service reform. It also offers a straightforward examination of the scandals associated with the period, highlighting the “embattled” nature of Grant’s presidency and the deep antagonism that marked his relations with key critics such as Charles Sumner, Henry Adams, and Benjamin Bristow. In sum, this book is a long overdue re-evaluation of a pivotal presidency in America’s political history.

About the Author

Charles W. Calhoun, Thomas Harriot College Distinguished Professor of History emeritus at East Carolina University, is the author of many books, including Conceiving a New Republic: The Republican Party and the Southern Question, 1869–1900 and Minority Victory: Gilded Age Politics and the Front Porch Campaign of 1888, both from Kansas.

Additional Titles in the American Presidency Series Series