Before Grant’s first term was over, a reform movement was started in the Republican Party to protest against corruption. The chief policies advocated were civil service reform, tariff reform, and the complete cessation of Federal military intervention in the governments of the South.
Had the reform party shown the same wisdom in the choice of a candidate and the management of their campaign as they did in the making of their platform, they might have defeated Grant in 1872. However, they chose Horace Greeley, editor of the New York Tribune, who was known as an irritable man, who had no qualifications for the office of President, and whose only real point of agreement with the reformers was a desire to see the Southern states delivered from the radical Reconstruction governments. In the meantime, Grant remained popular with the people and defeated Greeley easily.
Grant’s second term saw the gradual recovery of the nation from the political and commercial corruption of the years immediately following the Civil War. A severe financial panic which broke in 1873 sobered the business men of the country and checked the wild speculation in lands and railroads which had characterized the previous five-year period.
After his second term he spent over two years in a voyage around the world with his wife before returning to his home in Galena, Illinois.
In 1879, a faction of the Republican Party sought to nominate Grant for a third term as president. Grant said little but, privately he wanted the job and encouraged businessmen and old soldiers for their support. His popularity was fading however, and while he received more than 300 votes in each of the 36 ballots of the 1880 convention, the nomination went to James A. Garfield.
In 1881, Grant purchased a house in New York City and having depleted most of his savings from the trip around the world, needed to make money. He then placed almost all of his financial assets into an investment banking partnership with Ferdinand Ward. However, in 1884, Ward swindled Grant and other investors, bankrupted the company of Grant & Ward, and fled. Leaving Grant almost penniless, he was forced to repay a $150,000 loan to one of his creditors, William H. Vanderbilt, with his Civil War mementos. Having forfeited his military pension when he assumed the office of President, and destitute, Grant began a series of literary works that improved his reputation and eventually brought his family out of bankruptcy. At about the same time, however, he was diagnosed with throat cancer.
Grant’s supporters in Congress rallied to get a bill passed to restore Grant to a General of the Army with full retirement pay. It was approved in March, 1885 and he received his first pay. Just a few months later, and only days before his death, he finished his memoirs. The Memoirs sold over 300,000 copies, earning the Grant family over $450,000. Mark Twain, in promoting the book, said it was “the most remarkable work of its kind since the Commentaries of Julius Caesar.”
Ulysses S. Grant died on July 23, 1885 at the age of 63 and was buried in New York City’s Riverside Park.
About the Article: Parts of the foregoing text were excerpted from the book An American History by David Saville Muzzey, published in 1911 and Military Heroes of the United States from Lexington to Santiago by Hartwell James published in 1899. However, the text, as it appears here, is far from verbatim, as the information has been heavily edited, truncated, and additional information added.