When Leftist rioters topped a statue of Ulysses S. Grant in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park last Friday, they were ridiculed for apparently not knowing that Grant was the general more responsible than any other for the defeat of the Confederacy and the end of slavery. And as J. Christian Adams pointed out here at PJ Media, “Grant’s Presidency also saw the enactment of the 15th Amendment and a stack of civil rights laws still in force.” But Adams added: “Never mind all that. The mob is on the march.” Indeed it is, and there is a simple and important reason for that: the objective behind their destruction of statues is not the eradication of all apparent glorification of racism and slavery. It is something far more insidious.
Grant not only fought against and destroyed the slave power and enacted civil rights laws. When our history is being denigrated, attacked, and erased, it is all the more important for each of us to know it. Rating America’s Presidents: An America-First Look At Who Was Best, Who Was Overrated, and Who Was An Absolute Disaster is an attempt to aid in that. It shows that from the very beginning of his presidency, Grant demonstrated a consistent commitment to the equality of rights of all people. He declared: “I have no prejudice against sect or race but want each individual to be judged by his own merit.” Just weeks after taking office in 1869, he approved an act stipulating that the word “white” be struck from all requirements to hold office or serve as a juror in the District of Columbia. When Southern states resisted Reconstruction measures, denied blacks the right to vote, and allowed the Ku Klux Klan to terrorize black populations, Grant sent federal troops to restore order and enforce the law.
Grant’s determination to protect the rights of the freed slaves made him extremely unpopular in the South, and increasingly in the North as well, particularly among Democrats, whose 1868 campaign slogan was “Our Motto: This is a White Man’s Country; Let White Men Rule.” This was their guiding principle throughout Grant’s presidency, and when they won control of the House of Representatives in the 1874 midterm elections, the Democrats were able to stymie almost completely Grant’s efforts to protect the civil rights of black Americans.
Even one of his failed initiatives as president shows Grant’s solicitude for black Americans and determination to secure equality of rights for them. He had a longstanding desire for the United States to acquire the Dominican Republic, which was then commonly known as Santo Domingo. Grant noted: “The present difficulty in bringing all parts of the United States to a happy unity and love of country grows out of the prejudice to color. The prejudice is a senseless one, but it exists.”
A solution to this, he suggested, could be large-scale black emigration to a Santo Domingo annexed to the United States: “If two or three hundred thousand blacks were to emigrate to St. Domingo… the Southern people would learn the crime of Ku Kluxism, because they would see how necessary the black man is to their own prosperity.”
Grant emphasized that he was not advocating this emigration; he was merely suggesting it as a solution to the systematic denial of rights to freed slaves in the South. “I took it that the colored people would go there in numbers, so as to have independent states governed by their own race. They would still be States of the Union, and under the protection of the General Government; but the citizens would be almost wholly colored.” Santo Domingo, he asserted, was “capable of supporting the entire colored population of the United States, should it choose to emigrate.” However, once Santo Domingo was established as a haven for the freedmen, white Southerners would want to discourage further emigration, for then the black man’s “worth here would soon be discovered, and he would soon receive such recognition as to induce him to stay.”
On September 4, 1869, the president of the Dominican Republic signed a treaty approving the U.S. annexation of the country, which would be admitted to the Union as a territory, with statehood to follow. The Senate, however, voted the treaty down. Grant persisted, sending Frederick Douglass to Santo Domingo as part of a commission to study the matter; this commission returned with a report saying that most Dominicans favored annexation, but nothing came of it.
Those who destroyed Grant’s statue know none of this, of course. Some have pointed out that before the Civil War Grant owned a slave (whom he received as a gift and quickly freed), but it’s unlikely that they know that, either. Grant’s crime in their eyes is not that he was a racist or a slave-owner, it was that he was an American patriot and hero. The current civil war is in this sense like the one in which Grant fought with such distinction: the biggest heroes on one side are the biggest villains on the other. Grant was an American who strove to establish justice and equality of rights in his country; the statue-topplers are Marxist internationalists who hate any manifestation of national pride, boil with hatred and rage against America as a free republic, and want to establish an authoritarian socialist regime that would follow the pattern of all earlier such regimes and deny basic rights and freedoms to those whom they fear and hate. As such, the toppling of the Grant statue was no anomaly; there will be much more of this to come.
Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch and a Shillman Fellow at the David Horowitz Freedom Center. He is author of 19 books, including the New York Times bestsellers The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and The Truth About Muhammad. His latest book is The Palestinian Delusion: The Catastrophic History of the Middle East Peace Process. Follow him on Twitter here. Like him on Facebook here.