The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant, Volume 24: 1873
- Publish Date: 2000-05-17
- Binding: Hardcover
Inaugurated for a second term on March 4, 1873, Ulysses S. Grant gave an address that was both inspiring and curiously bitter. He told the assembled crowd, It is my firm conviction that the civilized world is tending towards republicanism, or government by the people through their chosen representatives, and that our own great republic is destined to be the guiding star to all others. Yet he ended the speech on an almost petulant note: I have been the subject of abuse and slander scarcely ever equaled in political history, which to-day I feel that I can afford to disregard in view of your verdict which I gratefully accept as my vindication.
Grant's lingering anger at his opponents in the 1872 campaign, despite his rather easy victory, reflected his discomfort with politics. Nor had he grown to love his office. Despite a schedule that gave him far more time away from the capital than any of his predecessors, Grant chafed at his work, once joking to a senator that he could not accept an invitation to leave the capital until Congress met. After that unhappy event I would be willing to run away any Saturday from my natural enemy.
Grant's second administration began with trouble in a familiar spot, as rival governments claimed legitimacy in Louisiana. At first attempting to remain above the fray, Grant soon succumbed to the pleas of his Republican allies, led by Governor William P. Kellogg and Grants own brother-in-law, collector of customs James F. Casey. Although troops helped to keep Kellogg in power and gave relative peace to New Orleans, violence escalated in the outlying parishes.
Violence in California threatened Grant's Indian peace policy. After Modocs under Captain Jack murdered Brigadier General Edward R. S. Canby during peace talks, what had been an Indian outbreak became the Modoc War. When the outnumbered Modocs were finally overwhelmed, Grant faced critics on all sides as he weighed the punishment for Canby's assailants. The eventual hanging of four Modocs satisfied few. Grant's foreign policy faced few obstacles until November, when Spanish authorities in Cuba shocked Americans by executing fifty-three crew and passengers of the Virginius, caught off the coast of Cuba trying to supply Cuban insurgents while falsely flying the U.S. flag. Grant and Secretary of State Hamilton Fish spent a difficult month balancing public demands for retribution with the knowledge that the Virginius had limited grounds for legal protection. Passions eventually cooled. Even many politicians shied away from action, causing Grant to joke that if Spain were to send a fleet into the harbor of New York, and bombard the city, the Senate might pass a resolution of regret that they had had cause for so doing, and offer to pay them for the expense of coming over and doing it.
The greatest challenge to Grant and the country in 1873 came with the stock market panic that began in September. The failure of Jay Cooke & Co. led to a Wall Street collapse, followed by pressure on banks. In the first few days, amid clamor for government action, Grant consulted financiers in New York City and agreed to release treasury funds to bolster the currency. By the end of the month, however, Grant publicly called for bankers and corporations to bear more of the burden of economic recovery, while the country slid gradually toward financial depression.