20. The President under Fire
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511 ★ ★ ★ ★ ★ 20 THE PRESIDENT UNDER FIRE The Republican victories in 1875 sparked renewed speculation that Grant might break with tradition and run again for president, but unfolding events soon made such talk idle. The day after the November election, the grand jury investigating the Whiskey Ring in St. Louis indicted a prominent Republican newspaper publisher and a former internal revenue collector. At the same time, prosecutors prepared to try John McDonald and former Treasury Department chief clerk William Avery. Further indictments loomed. The renewed war on crooked whiskey QRWRQO\VPRWKHUHGWKLUGWHUPVSHFXODWLRQEXWDOVRLQWHQVLÀHGIULFWLRQ ZLWKLQ*UDQW·VR΀FLDOKRXVHKROG(TXDOO\LPSRUWDQWWKH:KLVNH\5LQJ scandal and other allegations of wrongdoing leveled by the president’s opponents killed his chances of squiring a policy agenda to a successful conclusion. Indeed, Grant spent his last eighteen months in the White +RXVHDVDSUHVLGHQWXQGHUÀUH1 Although the impetus to defeat the Whiskey Ring came from within WKHDGPLQLVWUDWLRQ'HPRFUDWVDLPHGWRPDNHWKDWÀJKWWKHEHJLQQLQJ of a general political assault. In early December 1875 their party took FRQWURORIWKH+RXVHRI5HSUHVHQWDWLYHVIRUWKHÀUVWWLPHVLQFHEHIRUHWKH Civil War. Embracing the party’s small-government notions, the Democrats showed no intention of sanctioning anything Grant or their Republican colleagues might propose. With twenty-one southerners chairing CHAPTER 20 512 FRPPLWWHHVRQHZDJREVHUYHG´,WLVWKHÀUVWWLPH/HH·VDUP\HYHUWRRN Washington.” Certainly the forward thrust of Reconstruction was dead. Obstruction was the Democrats’ goal, but they aimed not just to block but to blacken. “Our fellows in Congress,” a Maine Democrat argued, should “wade into the opposition, expose their corruption, LQYHVWLJDWH, shake out their dirty linen before the people, keep them defending, keep WKHPDWLWFRQVWDQWO\µ2QHRIWKHLUÀUVWDFWVZDVWRSDVVDUHVROXWLRQGHclaring that the two term tradition had become “a part of our republican system of government, and that any departure from this time-honored custom would be unwise, unpatriotic, and fraught with peril to our free institutions.” The vote was 233 to 18. The fact that more than 60 percent of the Republican representatives voted in favor of the resolution added to its sting. Of the six African American representatives who voted, all opposed it.2 Despite the dim prospects, Grant greeted the opening session with the longest annual message of his presidency. To a large extent he traversed familiar territory. Notwithstanding the still depressed economy, he invoked a raft of statistics to put the best face on the nation’s material SURJUHVVGXULQJLWVÀUVWFHQWXU\+HFDOOHGIRUOHJLVODWLRQWRXQGHUJLUG specie resumption, recommended reduced expenditures, and advoFDWHG WKHUHVWRUDWLRQRIWDULͿUDWHVRQWHDDQGFRͿHHDQGWKHUHGXFWLRQ of others, especially on raw materials. He asked Congress to outlaw théÁDJUDQWµFULPHRISRO\JDP\LQ8WDKDQGWKHLPSRUWDWLRQRI&KLQHVH women for immoral purposes. He claimed continued “satisfactory and encouraging results” from his peace policy but urged the passage of measures to deal with troubles growing out of the discovery of gold in the Black Hills on the Sioux reservation. His chief pronouncement about IRUHLJQDͿDLUVSXVKHGE\)LVKZDVWKHFRQWLQXHGQRQUHFRJQLWLRQRI Cuban belligerency. Acknowledging that political maneuvering would dominate the session, Grant challenged the Democrats by reprising the defense of nonsectarian education he had outlined in his Des Moines speech. He called for a constitutional amendment to require the states to establish and maintain free public schools; to forbid the teaching of “religious, atheistic, or pagan tenets” in them; and to prohibit the granting of public VFKRROIXQGV´IRUWKHEHQHÀWRUDLGGLUHFWO\RULQGLUHFWO\RIDQ\UHOLJLRXV sect or denomination.” The proposal also stipulated that public schools must be accessible to all children “irrespective of sex, color, birthplace, or religions.” Nowhere else in the message did the president say anyWKLQJ  DERXW WKH 6RXWK DQG DOWKRXJK KH GLG QRW VSHFLÀFDOO\ GLVFXVV THE PRESIDENT UNDER FIRE 513 PL[HGVFKRROVWKHUHIHUHQFHWR´FRORUµOHQWPRUDOVXSSRUWWRHͿRUWVLQ the southern states to educate both races. His reference to “birthplace,” moreover, connoted the inclusion of immigrant children. In addition, arguing that civic instruction was essential to republicanism, he advocated making education “compulsory” and barring “all persons who can not read and write from becoming voters after the year 1890.” AntiCatholic Protestants found much to like in the school funding proposal, but Grant also suggested that the...


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