"Truth, honesty and integrity the best policy in politics as well as in the pursuit of happiness in this world and the world hereafter," he writes as President.
The price of fame can be expensive for any person; the cost can take an even higher toll if the fame is unsought. Ulysses S. Grant is a prime example of fame obscuring as much as revealing the man, leaving historians trying to discover the real Grant ever since his death in...
The price of fame can be expensive for any person; the cost can take an even higher toll if the fame is unsought. Ulysses S. Grant is a prime example of fame obscuring as much as revealing the man, leaving historians trying to discover the real Grant ever since his death in 1885.
During the Civil War, Grant was mentioned as a drunkard, and accused of causing the needless butchery of his men. Lincoln was often pestered with accusations against Grant, and was pressured to replace him. Grant's personality was not that of the stereotypical general; his chief characteristic was his modesty, and he was reserved with strangers. He was free of conceit; a rare quality for a man who had advanced as far and as fast as Grant had. These factors, along with jealousy, led to rocky relations with some of the other generals, who took Grant's modesty and freedom from conceit as faults showing his shallowness. During his term in the White House, Grant was plagued by scandal and corruption, and there is no doubt that he trusted the wrong men. Even today, Grant's reputation remains sullied because of these claims of character flaws, inappropriate behavior and, essentially, incompetence.
But is that impression true? President Lincoln trusted Grant, as did great generals such as William T. Sherman. His former foes respected him. In fact, shortly after the close of the Civil War, President Andrew Johnson sent Grant as an emissary to tour the South to evaluate the feelings of the southern people. Everywhere he went, people honored Grant, soldiers sought him out, mayors came to greet him, he was invited to sessions of government and was received with applause. And later, the corruption that harmed his presidency never attached itself to him personally, as he was considered honest. In fact, he came close to being nominated for a third term in 1880. Clearly his contemporaries saw something that we do not.
How did Grant try to conduct his life? Were there core principles that defined his beliefs and governed his actions, so that we in our time can come closer to the real Grant? The answer is yes, and he articulated them here.
Autograph Quotation Signed, on the plain note card he used as President, April 27, 1872. "Truth, honesty and integrity the best policy in politics as well as in the pursuit of happiness in this world and the world hereafter." This is the first autograph quotation of Grant that we can ever recall seeing, and a search of public sale records going back four decades fails to turn up another quote. Nor could we find a single sentiment essentially expressing all of this elsewhere.
Here we come as close to the real Grant as possible, and see his lodestar as truth, honesty and integrity. Even amidst the swirl of difficulties he faced as President, he singled out these principles to guide both his personal and political lives. They were, he proclaims, the right thing to do in politics, and equally right to achieve general happiness in this world. And for good measure, he finishes by asserting his belief in the world to come, thus making a strong statement about his belief in God and the afterlife. This is an important statement, and its existence quite extraordinary.
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