Grant and Andrew Johnson—their original concord and the growth of a different feeling.
for a while after the death of Lincoln
the relations between the new President
were of the most cordial character.
The only point of difference was in regard to the treatment of the South
At first the victorious General was far more inclined to leniency than Johnson
But by degrees the President
's feeling became mitigated, and by the winter of 1865 he was already more disposed to be the political partisan of the Southerners than the ally of those who had elected him. He had conceived the idea that without the aid of Congress he could reconstruct the Union
; and doubtless believed that by making extraordinary advances and offering extraordinary immunities to the South
, he could build up a national party at both the North
and the South
of which he would necessarily be the head.
The great popularity of Grant
at this period made it important to win him over to the support of the enterprise.
was unused to the arts of placemen and politicians, and indeed unversed in any manoeuvres except those of the field.
He still retained his magnanimous sentiment toward the conquered, and was at first in no way averse to what he supposed were the President
He protested against the harsh measures advised by many Northerners, and was far more in accord with Johnson
than with Stanton
The Democrats claimed him; the Republicans distrusted him. General Richard Taylor
came to me about this time and proposed that Grant
should become the candidate of the Democratic party in the next Presidential election, promising the support of the South
in a mass if it was allowed to vote.
James Brooks, then the leader of the Democrats in the House of Representatives, made similar overtures, also through me. Brooks
was my intimate personal friend; he always predicted that Grant
would be the next President
, and he was avowedly anxious to secure him for the Democrats.
I invariably told my chief whatever I learned that could affect or interest him, no matter what the source, and I conveyed these messages to Grant
He sent no reply, nor did he indicate either satisfaction or displeasure at the suggestion.
At that time he had no strong political bias, and, I believe, no political ambition.
Both were slow of development, though both came at last.
When Mr. Johnson
proposed in November that Grant
should make a tour of the South
and report the condition and feeling of the people, the General-in-Chief
was entirely willing.
He performed the journey and reported in accordance with the expectations of the President
, but very much to the disgust of ardent and bitter Republicans, who were destined afterward to claim him as their representative and chief.
When Congress met in December the policy of the President
had been fully developed, and up to that time had not been opposed by Grant
, without any authority of law, had appointed Governors in the seceded States and allowed their Legislatures to assemble; he had even exacted changes in their constitutions—all without the sanction or advice of Congress.
He had refused to call Congress together, and as that body was without the power to summon itself before the ordinary time, this left him from April to December at liberty to prosecute his plans.
it would have been wiser had the President
convoked Congress and taken its advice; but he held himself to be merely a military officer, and was unwilling to intrude into civil affairs.
He had not been consulted in regard to the policy of the President
, and as Congress was not summoned, and some system of reconstruction was indispensable, he acquiesced in the action of his superior.
But he always maintained that the action was provisional; that Congress, as the representative of the people, must eventually decide what should be done, and to that decision all must bow. I frequently heard him express this view.
During the winter, however, the President
and Congress came to an open rupture.
had striven to prevent this.
He felt the necessity of harmony between the two branches of the Government
at so critical a juncture, and he used all the weight and influence which his achievements gave to bring about this harmony.
But the President
was obstinate, and Congress entirely disapproved his plan and reversed his proceedings.
maintained that as soon as any State had formally acquiesced in the abolition of slavery its representatives should be readmitted to Congress with all the power they held before seceding.
But grave objections were offered to such a course.
The Constitution had originally provided that the number of representatives should be apportioned to the population, adding in each State to the number of the free three-fifths of those not free.
By this arrangement, though the slaves did not vote, the masters had the benefit of their numbers.
The anomaly had been one of the original compromises of the Constitution
But the entire Southern population was now free, and would therefore be included in the basis for representation, though still the freedmen had no vote; so that emancipation actually increased very largely the number of representatives to which the South
under the Constitution
To this Congress would not agree; but Mr. Johnson
that the States which had revolted should be received back into the Union
with their political power increased as the result of the war. Besides this, he wished to exact no guarantees for the payment of the war debt of the nation or the repudiation of that of the South
He claimed the right to pardon every man engaged in the Rebellion
at his own individual will, and he took no care to protect the emancipated millions.
On all these points Congress was at issue with him.
Their differences extended to the entire nation.
The encouragement given by the Executive
not unnaturally awoke in the South
a desire to recover its old ascendency.
The leaders perceived and accepted their opportunity.
They of course became the partisans of Johnson
and assumed a very different tone from that they had maintained immediately after the war, while the Northern
people were provoked, fearing to lose what had been won at so much cost.
tried for a while to hold the balance between the two parties.
He strove to preserve his original magnanimity of feeling, and never swerved from the doctrine that the officers of the Southern
army were exempt from punishment for military acts committed during the war. He angered many Northern friends by his insistence on this point.
But he rebuked what he deemed the offensive tone of the Southern
press, and suspended newspapers that made themselves especially obnoxious.
He refused to permit the reorganization of the State
militia at the South
He never forgot that a mighty war had just closed, and that he was dealing with those who had been the nation's enemies.
Up to this time his position had been exclusively military; but the situation developed in him a political vision and compelled political action.
Both parties to the contest wanted to use the prestige of his name; both laid their arguments before him and sought to secure his support.
The President was full of devices and schemes not always
He began by trying to wheedle Grant
He sent him constant personal and familiar notes and cards—an unusual courtesy, almost a condescension, from a President.
With these messages he often enclosed slips from the Southern
newspapers, complimenting Grant
on his magnanimity, and predicting that he was sure to support the President
in upholding the ‘rights of the South
Two of these notes I preserved.
They show the intimate footing that Johnson
desired to maintain.
Both of these are in pencil; the former is without date, and the address on each is in the President
Once when the difference between Congress and the President
was at its height Grant
chanced to give an evening party, and the President
came uninvited with his family and remained an hour or two, an honor almost unexampled at that day, when a President neither visited nor attended evening parties.
He stood by the side of Grant
and received the guests, and the circumstance was heralded all over the country as an indication of the cordial political understanding between them.
In 1866 a convention was held at Philadelphia
of those who supported Mr. Johnson
It was attended by many Southerners and by Northerners who had opposed the war, as well as by some who had fought for the Union
but who now advocated measures less stringent than Congress advised.
A delegation was appointed by this convention to
proceed to Washington
and present resolutions of sympathy to the President
Late on the morning of their arrival Johnson
sent the following note to Grant
was still unwilling to take any definite political position, such as his presence at this reception would indicate; but he felt himself obliged to obey the summons of the President
He went to the White House
with the intention of excusing himself, but the President
had already taken his place in the East Room, and sent for the General-in-Chief
to join him there.
thought that without positive rudeness he could not refuse.
So he stood by Johnson
's side during the entire demonstration, greatly to his own disgust and chagrin, and returned to his headquarters afterward full of indignation at the device by which he had been entrapped, and beginning to detest the policy of the President
, if for nothing else, because of his petty manoeuvring.
These wiles continued.
In August, the President
determined to make a tour to Chicago
by way of New York and Buffalo
and other cities, and invited Grant
to accompany him. A subordinate can hardly decline such an invitation from the Chief
of the State
, but Grant
, who perceived the object, offered repeated excuses.
, however, continued to urge the matter, and finally put the request as a personal solicitation.
felt that it would be indecorous
any longer to object, and accordingly accompanied the President
As he had anticipated, the tour was converted into a political pilgrimage.
At every point Mr. Johnson
made speeches and received demonstrations in favor of his policy, while Grant
was dragged about an unwilling witness of manifestations which he disapproved.
He kept himself, as much as possible, in the background, and refused absolutely to make any speeches; but his presence was nevertheless proclaimed as positive evidence of his adherence to the President
Finally, his disgust was so great that he became half unwell, and pleading illness left the party and returned to Washington
in advance of the President
He was not free from the peculiarities of ordinary humanity; and this entire incident intensified his growing dislike to the plans and proceedings of Andrew Johnson
indeed had at this time a peculiar aversion to crooked ways and diplomatic arts, an aversion perhaps more manifest in the earlier part of his career than afterward.
For although he himself always remained direct—after mingling much with the world he found artifice and craft so common that the shock of the discovery wore off. But when he was new to them they affected him most unfavorably, and the chicanery of Johnson
disposed him in advance to dislike the principles it was intended to aid. Thus the President
, by his manoeuvres, instead of attracting, actually repelled the straightforward and obstinate soldier.
It was, however, not so much Grant
's real concurrence as the appearance of it before the world that Johnson
probably sought, and something of this he secured.
was conscious of the unfair success, and this very consciousness made him more ready to take an opposite stand.
Congress finally announced its plan of reconstruction, which was simply to undo what the President
had attempted and to refuse admission to the Southern States
until a new basis of representation was established.
The Legislature did
not insist on the enfranchisement of the blacks, but declared that whenever the right to vote was withheld the representation should be reduced by the proportion which the nonvoting population bore to the whole; the South
should not have its representation increased because of a war in which it had failed.
Congress also excluded those who had once been civil or military officers of the United States
and had afterward engaged in insurrection, from holding office again under the Government
they had striven to overthrow; it stipulated for the sacredness of the National
debt and the forfeiture of that of the Confederacy
These provisions were embodied in an amendment to the Constitution
to be submitted to all the States, both North and South.
In the autumn of 1866, in spite of the violent opposition of the Administration, the amendment was ratified by every Northern State.
The President's plan was thus rejected by those who had been successful in the field.
At this epoch Grant
became a politician.
He threw in his lot with the people with whom he had fought.
The following letter illustrates the original aversion of Grant
to entering politics: