Westholme Publishing
A short, focused history of the politics of Reconstruction in a changing America


The Presidency of Ulysses S. Grant
Preserving the Civil War’s Legacy
Paul Kahan

$28.00 Hardback

  • 256 pages
  • 6 x 9
  • 20 b/w illus.

About this Book

“Paul Kahan paints a revealing portrait of a man often confounded by the Presidency, but one who shaped it in profound ways. He shrewdly takes us from Reconstruction to America’s Centennial, when Ulysses S. Grant strove to enhance rights for African Americans, strengthen the Union, and maintain the peace—all against the tumultuous backdrop of post-Civil War upheaval, westward expansion, Washington scandals, economic strife, and foreign-affair entanglements. The conventional wisdom is that Grant was a brilliant general and, at best, a mediocre president. Paul Kahan’s book should change your thinking—his Grant is flawed, yes, but someone who, at his core, believed in and fought for the principles of equality and justice.”

—Stephen Puleo, author of American Treasures, The Caning, and Dark Tide

On December 5, 1876, President Ulysses S. Grant transmitted his eighth and final message to Congress. In reviewing his tenure as president, Grant proclaimed, “Mistakes have been made,” though he assured Congress, his administration’s “failures have been errors of judgment, not of intent.” Until recently, scholars have portrayed Grant as among the country’s worst chief executives. Though the scholarly consensus about Grant’s presidency is changing, the general public knows little, if anything, about his two terms, other than their outsized reputation for corruption. While scandals are undoubtedly part of the story, there is more to Grant’s presidency: Grant faced the Panic of 1873, the severest economic depression in U.S. history, defeated the powerful Senator Charles Sumner on the annexation of Cuba, and deftly avoided war with Spain while laying the groundwork for the “special relationship” between Great Britain and the United States. Grant’s efforts to ensure justice for African Americans and American Indians, however, were undercut by his own decisions and by the contradictory demands of the various constituencies that made up the Republican Party.

In The Presidency of Ulysses S. Grant: Preserving the Civil War’s Legacy, historian Paul Kahan focuses on the unique political, economic, and cultural forces unleashed by the Civil War and how Grant addressed these issues during his tumultuous two terms as chief executive. A timely reassessment, The Presidency of Ulysses S. Grant sheds new light on the business of politics in the decade after the Civil War and portrays an energetic and even progressive executive whose legacy has been overshadowed by both his wartime service and his administration’s many scandals.


PAUL KAHAN is the author of six books, including Amiable Scoundrel: Simon Cameron, Lincoln’s Scandalous Secretary of War, The Bank War: Andrew Jackson, Nicholas Biddle, and the Fight for American Finance (Westholme 2015), and The Homestead Strike: Labor, Violence, and American Industry. He earned his PhD in history from Temple University.




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