An Interview with General Grant
February 22, 1867
General Grant was interviewed on his views of Union control in the South and his position on where the country currently stands. The interviewer felt very pleased with Grant's mannerism and confidence and made it a point to say that he sees him fit to be President.
We paid our respects to General Grant at his headquarters on Saturday. We found him hard at work, but cordial as usual in receiving friends. We had last met him at City Point, just before the grand and decisive movement that crushed out the rebellion. Then he appeared care-worn and almost prostrated by his great labors. Now he gives evidence of an easier life and less exacting duties. He is, however, the same calm, modest, eminently sensible and wellpoised man, whose military combinations broke the back of rebellion and brought the traitors to a surrender. He conversed freely upon the condition of the country, And there is no attempt at concealment of his views. The questions put to him and his answers were substantially as follows : Question.--The rebellion was put down by the strong arm of military power under your direction, and surely the work was well done. Now, the question is, what policy shall be pursued for the reorganization of the late rebel States? Answer.--No, the work is not all done. The fighting is finished, but the very important matter of reconstruction is yet to be completed. I think if the southern States had accepted the amendment instead of rejecting it so hastily, they would have been admitted by Congress in December ; but now I think they will have to take the amendment, and manhood suffrage besides. Congress will insist upon this. Question.--How are affairs at the South, General? Is it true that in Texas and many other sections no adequate protection is given to Union men? Answer.--It is true that in a large proportion of Texas a Union man is not safe if beyond the limits of military protection. In and about Galveston a better state of things exist, and a majority of the people, I have no doubt, would be glad to have the laws enforced. In many other sections of the South loyal men have no proper security for life and property unless they are so located as to be taken care of by the military. The civil courts fail to punish offences against Union citizens, white and black. And as for that matter, they were always remiss. I am told that no murderer who had held what is called a respectable position before he committed the crime was ever hung or otherwise punished in the State of Virginia, and I believe the same is true of most, if not all, the late slave States. Question.--You say, General, the civil courts have failed to protect Unionists at the South. Well, are not the so-called State governments there the greatest of all failures? Answer.--That is a political question for Congress to decide. I only give facts, and others may construe them as they please. I believe that large numbers at the South would be glad to have the laws enforced impartially; in some parts this is the sentiment of the majority. But the trouble is they are overborne by the lawless element, and cannot enforce justice. Question.--Well, in any event, there can be no more fighting? Answer.--Oh no, unless Brooks and Wood and that Copperhead set get up their threatened war, and there is some doubt, I think, whether they will undertake to carry out their threats. One of our party, Mr. C. O. Greene, of Troy, who is on his way to Augusta, Ga., here made the inquiry whether a Union man is perfectly safe in travelling south? Answer.Oh yes, perfectly safe. There is no danger at all on the regular lines of travel. But, then, if you should stop and get into angry political discussions, there would be danger in some places, no doubt. In that case shooting would probably be passed off as justifiable homicide, if the murderer was arrested at all. After passing compliments, &e., we bade the General good day, all our party being highly pleased with the interview, and feeling strengthened in our conviction that U. S. Grant is not only fit to be General, but eminently fit to hold the more exalted position of President of the United States, to which a loyal people will call him.
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“An Interview with General Grant,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed May 25, 2018, https://reconstructingvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/529.