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Chapter 10:

    • After the war.
    • -- generous to repentant rebels. -- tour through the South. -- Andrew Johnson's usurpations. -- encouragement to the rebels. -- Grant's measures to control the rebellious spirit. -- the New Orleans riot. -- Grant and Sheridan. -- President Johnson's tour. -- Grant's company ordered. -- his reticence and escape. -- not to be caught again. -- confidence of Congress. -- the military districts and commanders. -- execution of the reconstruction acts. -- Grant's firmness and support of the authority of Congress. -- Johnson's anger. -- the General's duties faithfully performed. -- he anticipates trouble. -- intrusted with extraordinary power. -- Johnson's hostility. -- removal of Stanton. -- Grant's protest. -- Johnson's obstinacy. -- Grant Secretary of war ad interim. -- his rare administrative powers. -- removal of Sheridan. -- another protest. -- removal of Sickles and Pope. -- Grant the defender of congressional policy. -- Johnson's “little game.” -- he misrepresents Grant. -- Grant's letter to the President. -- Johnson's vulgar hatred. -- he maintains his version. -- Grant's reply. -- the people's judgment. -- failure of the “little game.” -- Consequences to Johnson. -- contrast between Grant and Johnson.

The return of peace imposed new duties upon General Grant, not, perhaps, so much to his taste as active employment in the field, but none the less faithfully performed. His headquarters were at Washington, where some of the citizens of the North, in gratitude for his great service to the country, presented to him a spacious and well-furnished house, with an excellent library well supplied with military works, and adapted to the use of the commander of the armies. [132] These and other free gifts from a grateful people were acknowledged with the quiet modesty characteristic of the man.

He who had done so much to crush the rebellion, who knew the terrible cost of the war in blood and treasure, who had learned by experience the spirit of the rebels, like all true and patriotic soldiers did not wish to see all that blood and treasure wasted, and all the toils, burdens, and sufferings of those four long years borne in vain. If the rebels, humbled and penitent, would accept in good faith the results of their foolish and wicked contest, and seek to restore the Union upon a permanent basis of freedom and justice, he was disposed to treat them leniently. It was in the hope of securing such a disposition on the part of the rebels that he had granted magnanimous terms to Lee's army, and by that precedent to all the rebels in arms. When, not long after the war, he made a tour of inspection at the South, he was encouraged by the conduct of most of those with whom he came in contact to believe that the great majority of the late rebels did honestly accept the situation, and were ready to submit to such conditions as the government might impose, in order to resume their relations with the Union, and restore the exhausted resources of their states. Such, undoubtedly, at that time was the sentiment; of these men, so utterly defeated in the field, ruined in property, and hopeless, except in the clemency of their conquerors.

But Andrew Johnson, usurping the prerogatives of Congress, undertook to restore the rebel states according to what he denominated “my policy,” and destroyed [133] the fair prospect of a just settlement of the important questions involved in reconstruction. Without authority he appointed provisional governors, authorized conventions to frame constitutions, dictated who should vote, and on what conditions the states might be restored to the Union. And all this he did to secure to rebels and not to loyal men the power of reconstruction. He had declared that rebels “must take back seats,” but he now pardoned them, and even appointed them provisional governors. He had promised to be the Moses of the colored race, but now all his efforts were directed to leading them back into virtual bondage. And that was the sum and substance of “my policy” --to restore all political power to the old slave-holding aristocrats who had risen in wicked rebellion, and to subject the colored race, who had been made freemen by the war and by amendment to the constitution, to a state of dependence and tutelage in no way better than slavery itself.

Encouraged by favors they had no right to expect, the old spirit of the rebels was soon made manifest. They no longer accepted their condition as conquered enemies of the republic, but arrogantly demanded the rights of citizens. They showed their hatred of Union men, and sought to oppress the freedmen as they had oppressed their slaves, bringing on again a state little better than war in some portions of the South, and exciting a spirit no better than rebellion.

General Grant had occasion to issue orders for the suppression of this rebellious spirit which grew out of Andrew Johnson's policy, and he became convinced that he had been deceived by the apparent humility of the rebels, or that the malignant spirit of the rebellion [134] had become newly aroused by the action of the President, and could be controlled only by military authority. So far as the disposition of troops permitted, he gave orders for the protection of loyal white men and freedmen, and for the punishment of the atrocities of unrepentant rebels. His influence and his action, as might be expected, were all on the side of law and order, and against the arrogant and vindictive spirit which exulted in cruelty and atrocity.

Andrew Johnson's policy, and his direct communications with the Louisiana rebels, encouraged them to the most bitter opposition to the loyal element in that state, and caused the New Orleans riot of August, 1866, when they wantonly attacked the members of the State Convention, which had previously framed a constitution, and reassembled according to the terms of its adjournment. Whether the assembly was by proper authority or not, there was no justification for the bloody opposition manifested by the rebels, with Mayor Monroe and some of the state officials at their head. But the support and encouragement which they received from the President led them to commit the outrages and murders by which loyal men, white and black, were assailed, hunted down, and killed. General Sheridan, who commanded the department, and who was absent at the time in Texas, was not disposed to tolerate the rule of that rebellious spirit which he had fought for four years to conquer. He investigated the affair, and reported the atrocious spirit and acts of the rebels, and acting under the instructions of General Grant, he took measures for the protection of loyal men, and watched the schemes of these still malignant rebels. He was sustained [135] and strengthened by Grant, although the rebels appealed to the President, and received all the aid and comfort he dared to give them. Sheridan's firm and loyal conduct gave great satisfaction to the people of the North, except to those who were ready to join hands with the rebels against Congress. But it was due to Grant's firmness and fidelity to the principles which had triumphed over rebellion, that the army was not at New Orleans and elsewhere at the South actually ranged on the side of the rebels against loyal men.

Soon after the New Orleans riot the President made his notable and notorious tour to the tomb of Douglas; and in order to create as much popular enthusiasm as possible, he invited, in the form of a command, General Grant and Admiral Farragut to join the presidential party. His course on that journey, “swinging round the circle,” and making vulgar, undignified, and seditious speeches, must have disgusted these two patriotic veterans. Their presence served to bring out vast crowds, whose cheers the President was conceited enough to imagine were tributes to himself. But on more than one occasion it was made evident that the crowd came to cheer Grant and Farragut, and not Johnson,--the heroes who had conquered the rebels, and not the renegade who sought to restore them to power. Grant modestly acknowledged the honors offered him, but made no speeches, knowing that silence, after Johnson's tirades, was more eloquent and becoming than words.

Notwithstanding Secretary Seward's repeated insinuations that Grant supported and approved Johnson's policy, and his declaration that “General Grant cannot [136] not be separated from the President,” the general improved the first favorable opportunity to leave the party. He had no taste for “shows ;” he was indignant that he should be used to give éclat to the President's political tour, and be placed in a false light before the country; and he was disgusted with that functionary's vulgar manners and malignant speeches. He determined that he would no longer be subject to the imputation of opposing Congress and the will of the loyal people, and that he would not again be caught in such unworthy company. While the President, the next year, was on his tour to Boston, Grant returned to Washington from a visit to West Point. On the cars he met some ladies, who remarked upon his not being one of the President's party. “I was not invited,” said the general, dryly, “and had I been, I should not have accepted the invitation.”

When Congress assumed the prerogative which belonged to it, and prescribed the terms and conditions on which the rebel states might be restored to their relations with the Union; when it saw the necessity of affording protection to the freedmen against the oppression and outrages of their late masters and rebel opponents of emancipation, it was found necessary to use the military power to secure the desired results. Andrew Johnson had vetoed the “civil rights bill,” designed to protect the freedmen; he had denounced, opposed, and almost undertaken to veto the fourteenth article of Amendments to the Constitution, which was designed as a basis of restoration of the states, and he had so indicated his hostility to Congress and to its policy, which was the policy of the people who had carried [137] through the war, that it was necessary to provide for some executive power as far as possible free from the interference of his wrong-headed will. General Grant had given such evidence of his adherence to the policy on which the war had been carried through, and of his obedience to law, that Congress saw in him, as the head of the army, the officer whose authority and influence would aid in the execution of its laws, and oppose a barrier to the schemes by which the President sought to restore the. rebels to power.

The rebel states were divided into five military districts, each to be commanded by a major-general. These officers were selected by Grant, though appointed to those places by the President, and in making the selection he took those whom he knew to be faithful to the policy on which the rebellion had been suppressed, and opposed to the restoration of rebels to power. Schofield, Sickles, Thomas, Ord, and Sheridan were the officers appointed to the several districts; but Thomas, desiring to remain in command in Kentucky and Tennessee, Pope was designated in his place. The authority of these commanders was great, but their acts were subject to the approval or disapproval of General Grant, who thus had the responsibility of the execution of the laws and the exercise of military power in the rebel states, so far as such responsibility could be separated from the President. It was necessary that this should be done in order to remove “impediments” to reconstruction, and to restrain the greatest of all impediments, Andrew Johnson, from thwarting the will of the people as expressed in the just measures of Congress. The result proved that [138] the confidence of Congress and the people was not misplaced.

That the reconstruction acts were executed with any degree of fidelity and success, was due chiefly to General Grant. From him emanated the general instructions under which the military commanders acted, and with him rested the power to revoke or approve their acts. Like their superior, the commanders who were first designated for the several districts were faithful to the principles upon which they had fought through the war. They were obedient to the law, and knowing the spirit of those who opposed it, they were watchful and energetic in the performance of their duties. Had they been under the discretionary orders of the President, and consented to be the instruments of his will, no principle of reconstruction determined upon by Congress would have been carried out. Mr. Johnson's influence was constantly exerted against congressional reconstruction in every way in which he could make it felt; and his well-known bitter hostility to negro suffrage, his avowed hatred of the “radical” Congress, and his language and promise in his frequent conversations with the unsubmissive rebels who went to Washington to misrepresent the condition of southern affairs, and to secure his aid to their plans for thwarting the will of Congress, did more than anything else to prevent an early settlement, and rendered the duties of the military commanders more arduous.

But for the firmness of Grant, the influence of the President, and his rebel and Democratic supporters, might have been more disastrous. The general was determined to carry out the provisions of the law, so [139] far as it was intrusted to the military authorities, whether it clashed with the purposes of Andrew Johnson and the rebels or not; and his subordinates, equally obedient to the law, and inspired and sustained by him, acted promptly and fearlessly. This conduct of Grant, and the military commanders, excited the anger of Johnson, who has always hated those who opposed his will and his opinions. Their removal of rebel civil officers, in governments which were merely tolerated till new and permanent governments could be established, were especially objectionable to him. Their full recognition of the rights of negroes, as secured by the reconstruction acts, was unpardonable. That they could act independently of him, and in opposition to his “policy,” was intolerable. Their popularity with the people of the North, not only for their faithful service in reconstruction, but for their brilliant victories and brave deeds during the war, was an additional annoyance, for he did not dare to do what he most desired, and remove them all at once to make way for his tools, if he could find any.

Regardless, however, of Mr. Johnson's ill temper, Grant quietly performed his duties under the laws of Congress, and as commander of the army manifesting the same subordination to legitimate authority, and the same steady support of the policy of the loyal North, which he had shown during the war. He made no public declarations of his views, and did not under-take to construe the laws to suit any theory of his own, but executed them according to their plain intent and purpose. As a soldier, he abstained from a frequent expression of his political opinions, and his constitutional [140] reticence made him appear still more cautious in that respect. But in private, among his friends, he did not hesitate to avow his sentiments, and those who knew him best were assured of his sympathy with the prevailing sentiment of the North, while his official acts satisfied even the most exacting. He won the entire confidence of Congress as an officer faithful in the administration of law as he had been able in his conduct of the war, and they saw in him the firm supporter of the laws, a barrier against the usurpations and schemes of the Executive to oppose and nullify the will of the people, as expressed by their representatives.

The bad temper, threatening language, and unscrupulous conduct of Andrew Johnson, foreboded trouble in some shape as soon as Congress adjourned, and the danger of impeachment, which was then first agitated, should not be imminent. So satisfied was Grant that the President intended to defeat the will of Congress in its reconstruction policy, if not even to do something worse, that he urged members of Congress not to adjourn without provision for reassembling in case of an emergency. Congress, though it made a partial provision of this kind, relied chiefly upon the passage of laws to restrain the President. The reconstruction act was amended in spite of a veto, and the tenure of office act was passed, designed, among other things, to prevent the removal of Mr. Stanton, who alone, in the cabinet, supported the congressional policy. Another act provided that the general of the army should always have his headquarters at Washington, that he should not be ordered elsewhere, nor be removed, except [141] with the consent of the Senate, while all military orders were to be issued through his headquarters.

That Grant should thus be intrusted with extraordinary powers for the safety of the republic, as well as for the reconstruction of the rebel states, shows how strong was the faith of Congress in his integrity and fidelity to law and principle. The confidence of Congress was fully shared by the people, among whom he was regarded as the man for the next President,--a designation which made him doubly obnoxious to Johnson. Grant was too strong in the popular estimation, as well as in his position by law, for Mr. Johnson openly to quarrel with him, or to seek to remove him, however much he desired to do so. But bitter in his hostility to Congress, and to the faithful agents of its will, the President determined to do all he could to prevent the success of the congressional policy, and indirectly to assail or damage Grant. His purpose, soon made manifest, was to remove or suspend Secretary Stanton, whom he hated, and to put Grant in his place ad interim, and then to remove those military commanders at the South who were the most efficient in their execution of the reconstruction laws, and who were most highly esteemed and heartily approved by the general. In this way Mr. Johnson, while carrying out his policy of obstruction, hoped also to place General Grant in a false position, as the instrument of these removals, and to shake, if not destroy, the confidence of Congress and the people in him. To snub the general, by removing those who had obeyed his instructions, was another pleasant intention of this high-minded President. [142]

But General Grant, though always subordinate as an officer, could not see such open disregard of the law, and such hostility to the will of the law-making power, without a protest, and when the purpose was announced to him, he addressed to the President the following letter, which shows his respect for law, his fidelity to principle, and his honest independence.

headquarters armies of the United States, Washington, D. C., August 1, 1867.
Sir: I take the liberty of addressing you privately on the subject of the conversation we had this morning, feeling, as I do, the great danger to the welfare of the country should you carry out the designs then expressed.

First. On the subject of the displacement of the Secretary of War. His removal cannot be effected against his will without the consent of the Senate. It is but a short time since the United States Senate was in session, and why not then have asked for his removal if it was desired? It certainly was the intention of the legislative branch of government to place cabinet ministers beyond the power of executive removal, and it is pretty well understood that, so far as cabinet ministers are affected by the “tenure of office bill,” it was intended specially to protect the Secretary of War, whom the country felt great confidence in. The meaning of the law may be explained away by an astute lawyer, but common sense, and the views of the loyal people, will give to it the effect intended by its framers.

On the subject of the removal of the very able commander of the fifth military district, let me ask you to consider the effect it would have upon the public. He is universally and deservedly beloved by the people who sustained this government through its trials, and feared by those who would still be enemies of the [143] government. It fell to the lot of but few men to do as much against an armed enemy as General Sheridan did during the rebellion, and it is within the scope of the ability of but few in this or any other country to do what he has. His civil administration has given equal satisfaction. He has had difficulties to contend with which no other district commander has encountered. Almost if not quite from the day he was appointed district commander to the present time, the press has given out that he was to be removed; that the administration was dissatisfied with him, &c. This has emboldened the opponents to the laws of Congress within his command to oppose him in every way in their power, and has rendered necessary measures which otherwise may never have been necessary. In conclusion, allow me to say, as a friend desiring peace and quiet, the welfare of the whole country north and south, that it is in my opinion more than the loyal people of this country (I mean those who supported the government during the great rebellion) will quietly submit to, to see the very men of all others whom they have expressed confidence in removed.

I would not have taken the liberty of addressing the Executive of the United States thus but for the conversation on the subject alluded to in this letter, and from a sense of duty, feeling that I know I am right in this matter.

With great respect, your obedient servant,

U. S. Grant, General. his Excellency A. Johnson, President of the United States.

But neither reason nor the patriotic appeal of the foremost soldier of the country could prevail against the obstinate ill will of the President, and on the 12th of August he issued an order suspending Secretary [144] Stanton, and appointing General Grant Secretary of War ad interim. The general and the secretary were on the best of terms, and were agreed in their support of the congressional policy of reconstruction. While Mr. Stanton protested against the action of the President, there was no one to whom he would more readily yield the place than to Grant. And the general, who cordially expressed his “appreciation of the zeal, patriotism, firmness, and ability” with which Mr. Stanton had ever discharged the duties of Secretary of War, accepted the position in order that the department might still be administered in the interests of loyalty and the enforcement of the laws, and not be made the instrument of Andrew Johnson in opposing Congress and encouraging rebels.

Whatever might have been the motive of Mr. Johnson in appointing Grant, the people knew enough of that functionary to believe that it was not an honest desire to promote the welfare of the country. But it had an effect which was probably not intended, as it had a result which was not anticipated. If at first any doubts arose as to Grant's fidelity to the principles which he had hitherto supported, they were dispelled as soon as the facts connected with his appointment were known; and any fears for his capacity for civil office were also as speedily and certainly removed. The administration of the war department with regard to reconstruction was not changed, and its affairs were conducted with an energy, ability, and spirit of economy, which proved that General Grant's rare administrative and executive talent was none the less suited to the discharge of civil duties than to the conduct of military affairs. [145]

General Grant had been but five days the acting Secretary of War, when Johnson commenced the other part of his programme, by issuing an order for the removal of General Sheridan from the command of the fifth military district, and for the assignment of General Thomas to that position. Being asked if he had any suggestions to make concerning this assignment, General Grant again protested against the movement as follows :--

headquarters armies of the United States, Washington, D. C., August 17, 1867.
. . . . . .

I am pleased to avail myself of this invitation to urge, earnestly urge, urge in the name of a patriotic people, who have sacrificed hundreds of thousands of loyal lives and thousands of millions of treasure to preserve the integrity and union of this country, that this order be not insisted on. It is unmistakably the expressed wish of the country that General Sheridan should not be removed from his present command.

This is a republic, where the will of the people is the law of the land. I beg that their voice may be heard.

General Sheridan has performed his civil duties faithfully and intelligently. His removal will only be regarded as an effort to defeat the laws of Congress. It will be interpreted by the unreconstructed element in the South, those who did all they could to break up this government by arms, and now wish to be the only element consulted as to the method of restoring order, as a triumph. It will embolden them to renewed opposition to the will of the loyal masses, believing that they have the Executive with them.

The services of General Thomas in battling for the Union entitle him to some consideration. He has repeatedly [146] entered his protest against being assigned to either of the five military districts,, and especially to being assigned to relieve General Sheridan.

There are military reasons, pecuniary reasons, and, above all, patriotic reasons, why this should not be insisted upon.

I beg to refer to a letter marked “private” which I wrote to the President, when first consulted on the subject of the change in the War Department. It bears upon the subject of this removal, and I had hoped would have prevented it.

I have the honor to be, with great respect,

Your obedient servant,

U. S. Grant, General U. S. A., Secretary of War ad interim. his Excellency A. Johnson, President of the United States.

The President, however, persisted in his encouragement to the unreformed rebels by removing General Sheridan, and as General Thomas's health would not justify his being sent to New Orleans, General Hancock was appointed in his place. On the, same day General Sickles was removed, because he, like Sheridan, carried out the reconstruction acts in the interest of loyalty, and General Canby was ordered to succeed him. And subsequently, for similar reasons, General Pope was removed, and General Meade assigned as his successor. In making these changes, except so far as his petty ill will was gratified, Mr. Johnson must have been disappointed. For all the new commanders, except Hancock, honestly and faithfully administered the reconstruction laws in accordance with their plain intent and meaning, and with the general instructions of [147] Grant; and though Hancock was in some way demoralized, and became, perhaps unwittingly, the tool of the President in fostering the rebel element in New Orleans, most of his retrograde and unjustifiable orders were promptly revoked by Grant, not a little to the President's annoyance.

In all this, and in many other less apparent ways, General Grant has been the defender and enforcer of the congressional policy of reconstruction, which is the policy of the people who fought through the war and put down the rebellion. Faithful to the principles for which the North with so m ny sacrifices contended, and faithful to the memory of the thousands who laid down their lives for the suppression of the rebellion and its infamous spirit, he could neither be bullied, nor coaxed, nor deceived into a policy which should restore rebels to power and place loyal men under their heel. He has been, too, a barrier to the possible schemes of folly and madness which Andrew Johnson is said to have contemplated. His very presence at Washington, as commander of the army, has been the safety of the republic, and a constant intimidation to rebels, and to any executive usurpation in the interest of rebels.

When the regular session of Congress commenced in December, 1867, and Mr. Johnson, complying in one respect with a law which he assumed to declare unconstitutional and void, sent to the Senate his reasons for suspending Secretary Stanton, his “little game” was made apparent. The Senate refused its consent to the removal of Mr. Stanton, and, according to the intent of the law, he was immediately reinstated. General Grant, now as always obedient to the law, recognized [148] the action of the Senate as itself a reinstatement of the secretary, and notifying the President of the fact, vacated the office. Mr. Johnson, baffled and angry, made known through some of his favorite correspondents of the press, his own schemes to thwart the will of Congress, in which he made it appear that General Grant had been a willing and active participant, but had finally been guilty of falsehood and deception, and had allowed Mr. Stanton to resume the war office in violation of his express promises. The substance of the statement was, in brief, that General Grant had promised the President that he would either hold on to the office of Secretary of War and resist the reinstatement of Mr. Stanton by the Senate, or, if he should change his mind and prefer not to be a party to the controversy, would resign, and thus enable the President to appoint some one who would be his tool; that on the Saturday previous to Stanton's reinstatement Grant virtually repeated this promise, and also promised to see the President on the following Monday, but failed to do so; and that at a cabinet meeting, being asked if he had not made such promises and broken them, he admitted that he had! The newspaper account, of course, did not fail to color the picture to Grant's disadvantage.

This story was published to gratify the vulgar hatred of Mr. Johnson, and with the hope of alarming the Republican party, and so damaging the general's reputation that the people would not accept him as a candidate for the Presidency. It was intended also to divert attention from Mr. Johnson's own guilty purposes. So mean a game was never before played by an occupant [149] of the White House, nor indeed by any politician of respectability and position. But it did not succeed. General Grant, whose conduct through all his career had been straightforward, honest, and obedient to law, could not in decency submit to the imputations authorized by a President of the United States, although he was a man in whom, notwithstanding his high office, the country had learned to put little confidence. He addressed to the President the following letter, which palpably states the truth:--

headquarters army of the United States, Washington, D. C., January 28, 1868.
Sir: On the 24th instant, I requested you to give me in writing the instructions which you had previously given me verbally, not to obey any order from Hon. E. M. Stanton, Secretary of War, unless I knew that it came from yourself. To this written request I received a message that has left doubt in my mind of your intentions. To prevent any possible misunderstanding, therefore, I renew the request that you will give me written instructions, and, till they are received, will suspend action on your verbal ones.

I am compelled to ask these instructions in writing, in consequence of the many and gross misrepresentations, affecting my personal honor, circulated through the press for the last fortnight, purporting to come from the President, of conversations which occurred either with the President privately in his office, or in cabinet meeting. What is written admits of no misunderstanding.

In view of the misrepresentations referred to, it will be well to state the facts in the case.

Some time after I assumed the duties of Secretary of War ad interim, the President asked me my views as to the course Mr. Stanton would have to pursue, in [150] case the Senate should not concur in his suspension, to obtain possession of his office. My reply was, in substance, that Mr. Stanton would have to appeal to the courts to reinstate him, illustrating my position by citing the ground I had taken in the case of the Baltimore police commissioners.

In that case I did not doubt the technical right of Governor Swann to remove the old commissioners and to appoint their successors. As the old commissioners refused to give up, however, I contended that no resource was left but to appeal to the courts.

Finding that the President was desirous of keeping Mr. Stanton out of office, whether sustained in the suspension or not, I stated that I had not looked particularly into the tenure of office bill, but that what I had stated was a general principle, and if I should change my mind in this particular case, I would inform him of the fact.

Subsequently, on reading the tenure of office bill closely, I found that I could not, without violation of the law, refuse to vacate the office of Secretary of War the moment Mr. Stanton was reinstated by the Senate. even though the President should order me to retain it, which he never did.

Taking this view of the subject, and learning on Saturday, the 11th instant, that the Senate had taken up the subject of Mr. Stanton's suspension, after some conversation with Lieutenant General Sherman and some members of my staff, in which I stated that the law left me no discretion as to my action, should Mr. Stanton be reinstated, and that I intended to inform the President, I went to the President for the sole purpose of making this decision known, and did so make it known.

In doing this I fulfilled the promise made in our last preceding conversation on the subject.

The President, however, instead of accepting my [151] view of the requirements of the tenure of office bill, contended that he had suspended Mr. Stanton under the authority given by the constitution, and that the same authority did not preclude him from reporting, as an act of courtesy, his reasons for the suspension to the Senate. That, having appointed me under the authority given by the constitution, and not under any act of Congress, I could not be governed by the act. I stated that the law was binding on me, constitutional or not, until set aside by the proper tribunal. An hour or more was consumed, each reiterating his views on this subject, until, getting late, the President said he would see me again.

I did not agree to call again on Monday, nor at any other definite time, nor was I sent for by the President until the following Tuesday.

From the 11th to the cabinet meeting on the 14th instant, a doubt never entered my mind about the President's fully understanding my position, namely, that if the Senate refused to concur in the suspension of Mr. Stanton, my powers as Secretary of War ad interim would cease, and Mr. Stanton's right to resume at once the functions of his office would under the law be indisputable, and I acted accordingly. With Mr. Stanton I had no communication, direct nor indirect, on the subject of his reinstatement, during his suspension.

I knew it had been recommended to the President to send in the name of Governor Cox, of Ohio, for Secretary of War, and thus save all embarrassment — a proposition that I sincerely hoped he would entertain favorably; General Sherman seeing the President at my particular request to urge this, on the 13th instant.

On Tuesday (the day Mr. Stanton reentered the office of the Secretary of War) General Comstock, who had carried my official letter announcing that, with Mr. Stanton's reinstatement by the Senate, I had [152] ceased to be Secretary of War ad interim, and who saw the President open and read the communication, brought back to me from the President a message that he wanted to see me that day at the cabinet meeting, after I had made known the fact that I was no longer Secretary of War ad interim.

At this meeting, after opening it as though I were a member of the cabinet, when reminded of the notification already given him that I was no longer Secretary of War ad interim, the President gave a version of the conversations alluded to already. In this statement it was asserted that in both conversations I had agreed to hold on to the office of Secretary of War until displaced by the courts, or resign, so as to place the President where he would have been had I never accepted the office. After hearing the President through, I stated our conversations substantially as given in this letter. I will add that my conversation before the cabinet embraced other matter not pertinent here, and is therefore left out.

I in nowise admitted the correctness of the President's statement of our conversations, though, to soften the evident contradiction my statement gave, I said (alluding to our first conversation on the subject) the President might have understood me the way he said, namely, that I had promised to resign if I did not resist the reinstatement. I made no such promise.

I have the honor to be, very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

U. S. Grant, General. his Excellency A. Johnson, President of the United States.

Mr. Johnson replied, repeating what he had before published through newspapers hostile to Grant and Congress, and adding that four members of the cabinet [153] concurred in the general accuracy of the published statement. This called out the following manly and honest response from General Grant:--

headquarters army of the United States, Washington, D. C., February 3, 1868.
Sir: I have the honor to acknowledge the receipt of your communication of the 31st ultimo, in answer to mine of the 28th ultimo. After a careful reading and comparison of it with the article in the National Intelligencer of the 15th ultimo, and the article over the initials J. B. S., in the New York World of the 27th ultimo, purporting to be based upon your statement and that of the members of your cabinet therein named, I find it to be but a reiteration, only somewhat more in detail, of the “many and gross misrepresentations” contained in these articles, and which my statement of the facts set forth in my letter of the 28th ultimo was intended to correct; and I here reassert the correctness of my statements in that letter, anything in yours in reply to it to the contrary notwithstanding.

I confess my surprise that the cabinet officers referred to should so greatly misapprehend the facts in the matter of admissions alleged to have been made by me at the cabinet meeting of the 14th ultimo as to suffer their names to be made the basis of the charges in the newspaper article referred to, or agree in the accuracy, as you affirm they do, of your account of what occurred at that meeting.

You know that we parted on Saturday, the 11th ultimo, without any promise on my part, either express or implied, to the effect that I would hold on to the office of Secretary of War ad interim against the action of the Senate, or, declining to do so myself, would surrender it to you before such action was had, or that I would see you again at any fixed time on the subject. [154]

The performance of the promises alleged by you to have been made by me would have involved a resistance to law, and an inconsistency with the whole history of my connection with the suspension of Mr. Stanton.

From our conversations, and my written protest of August 1, 1867, against the removal of Mr. Stanton, you must have known that my greatest objection to his removal or suspension was the fear that some one would be appointed in his stead who would, by opposition to the laws relating to the restoration of the Southern States to their proper relations to the government, embarrass the army in the performance of duties especially imposed upon it by these laws; and it was to prevent such an appointment that I accepted the office of Secretary of War ad interim, and not for the purpose of enabling you to get rid of Mr. Stanton by my withholding it from him in opposition to law, or not doing so myself, surrendering it to one who would, as the statement and assumptions in your communication plainly indicate was sought. And it was to avoid this same danger, as well as to relieve you from the personal embarrassment in which Mr. Stanton's reinstatement would place you, that I urged the appointment of Governor Cox, believing that it would be agreeable to you and also to Mr. Stanton--satisfied, as I was, that it was the good of the country, and not the office, the latter desired.

On the 15th ultimo, in presence of General Sherman, I stated to you that I thought Mr. Stanton would resign, but did not say that I would advise him to do so. On the 18th I did agree with General Sherman to go and advise him to that course, and on the 19th I had an interview alone with Mr. Stanton, which led me to the conclusion that any advice to him of the kind would be useless, and I so informed General Sherman.

Before I consented to advise Mr. Stanton to resign, I understood from him, in a conversation on the subject [155] immediately after his reinstatement, that it was his opinion that the act of Congress, entitled “An act temporarily to supply vacancies in the executive departments in certain cases,” approved February 20, 1863, was repealed by subsequent legislation, which materially influenced my action. Previous to this time I had had no doubt that the law of 1863 was still in force, and notwithstanding my action, a fuller examination of the law leaves a question in my mind whether it is or is not repealed. This being the case, I could not now advise his resignation, lest the same danger I apprehended on his first removal might follow.

The course you would have it understood I agreed to pursue was in violation of law, and without orders from you; while the course I did pursue, and which I never doubted you fully understood, was in accordance with law, and not in disobedience of any orders of my superior.

And now, Mr. President, when my honor as a soldier and integrity as a man have been so violently assailed, pardon me for saying that I can but regard this whole matter, from the beginning to the end, as an attempt to involve me in the resistance of law, for which you hesitated to assume the responsibility in orders, and thus to destroy my character before the country. I am in a measure confirmed in this conclusion by your recent orders directing me to disobey orders from the Secretary of War,--my superior and your subordinate,--without having countermanded his authority to issue the orders I am to disobey.

With the assurance, Mr. President, that nothing less than a vindication of my personal honor and character could have induced this correspondence on my part,

I have the honor to be, very respectfully,

Your obedient servant,

U. S. Grant, General. his Excellency A. Johnson, President of the United States.


The President reiterated his version of the affair, with the further charge against Grant of insubordination; and he undertook to substantiate his statements by the certificates of five members of the cabinet. But it is significant, that of these indorsers of presidential veracity, those who are of the least political consequence, and the most obsequious followers of Mr. Johnson, give the briefest and most emphatic certificates of his correctness; while those who chose to exercise their own memory, though they do not contradict the President, whom they felt compelled to sustain, really show that General Grant's statement was the true one. Certainly every unprejudiced reader could not but believe the plain, straightforward, soldierly declarations of General Grant, which accord with his well-known character and acts, rather than the disingenuous statements of Andrew Johnson, who was bent upon disobeying law, and defying Congress, and was trying to force a loyal officer to share his guilt.

When the correspondence was placed before the people, they speedily rendered a verdict in favor of the tried and honest soldier. They saw that his fidelity to the country in time of peace, against the wily schemes of an unscrupulous executive, was as firm and true as it had been in war when contending against the armed forces of the rebellion. And Mr. Johnson had the satisfaction of seeing his little game of damaging Grant's reputation no more successful than his malignant and unlawful attempt to get rid of Stanton; for the general was only the more firmly fixed in the regards of the people, and all the more trusted by Congress. On the other hand, the unexpected result of Mr. Johnson's [157] schemes soon followed this correspondence; for, continuing in his folly and madness, he boldly defied the law, and was impeached for high crimes and misdemeanors.

The contrast presented by Grant to Johnson is just what the country now needs in its chief executive in order to secure peace, stability, the legitimate fruits of a costly victory, and the sure return of prosperity. While Johnson, for his scandalous degradation of his high office, wrong-headed defiance of law, opposition to the will of the loyal people, and political apostasy, will be consigned to obscurity or infamy, Grant will be honored for his modest dignity, strict obedience to law, respect for the people, and fidelity to principle.

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