FRANK J. SCATURRO, President Grant Reconsidered (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1998), 137 pp., $34.50 cloth (ISBN 0-7618-1078).
When the name Ulysses Grant as president comes up, it almost always is coupled with the word corruption. Inevitably, polls evaluating the presidents put him near the bottom of their lists, followed only by Warren Harding.
Frank J. Scaturro, the author of this short, concise reconsideration of his presidency, carefully points out that there was more than just corruption in the eight tumultuous years of Grant's presidency. Grant followed Andrew Johnson, who succeeded Abraham Lincoln and who escaped impeachment by only one vote, in his efforts to seek a new rapprochement with the sullen South.
Grant was a novitiate in politics. Previously, he was so disinterested that he had voted only once in his life. He entered the White House a political amateur. His appointments to public office were horrendous and based on friendship--patronage that often leads to corruption and the belief that "to the victor goes the spoils." His appointees were devout adherents of the latter belief.
It cannot be denied that corruption and self-seeking were rife in Grant's administrations, although he himself never was accused of infidelity. There were the whiskey distillers defrauding the government, the Credit Mobilier that involved the bribing of several congressmen, the Tweed Ring, the shenanigans of Orville Babcock (Grant's private secretary), and the efforts of Jay Gould and James Fisk to corner the gold market (with the assistance of Abel R. Corbin, Grant's brother-in-law). Several of these actually occurred during the Johnson term but were discovered during the Grant years. And many other accusations, highly publicized, eventually were found to be without foundation. In singling out the Grant administration, in this day one forgets the scandals during the Harding, Harry Truman, John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon, and Lyndon B. Johnson...