the other Ulysses


Ulysses S. Grant was a hero to his generation: the greatest general of the Civil War, a popular president who was elected twice—and could have been elected three or four times had he wished. But later generations found him entirely dispensable, and he became the butt of historians’ jokes. Surveys of presidential scholars long placed Grant among the worst presidents. In a 1948 poll he rated ahead of just Warren Harding; by 1982 he had only clambered past James Buchanan and Andrew Johnson. And while today he has managed to put a little more distance between himself and last place, it is still no surprise to find him in the bottom half, if not among the bottom ten. The standard rap on Grant is that he was a drunk who surrounded himself with spoilsmen who stole the country blind.

more from H. W. Brands at Lapham’s Quarterly here.