The President and General Grant
February 6, 1868
President Johnson and General Grant clash politically. General Grant exhibits insubordination to President Johnson in the matter of the military order from the War Department.
The President and General Grant The correspondence between the President of the United States and General Grant is an incident of the revolutionary events now subverting the character of our republican form of government with its checks and balances which our forefathers vainly hoped would protect each department of the Government from the usurpations or encroachments of the others, and at the same time so preserve the mutual rights of the States and the central government as to secure perfect harmony, efficiency, and beneficence, for the whole. We see here the Executive humiliated by the disturbance of the relations between the Executive Chief and his subordinates by making the head of a department independent of him. Thus, while in other respects his province is invaded, the efficiency and harmony of the interior management of his own department are most seriously interrupted. The issues of veracity which have grown out of the reinstatement of the pertinacious Secretary of War (Stanton) belong to that class of disagreeable occurrences which are natural where authority it crippled, or where, from its inefficient administration, the subordinates gain immunity from responsibility, and become presumptuous. Arbitrary authority in one man is the offspring and the cure of this. As to the matters in issue, the weight of testimony is certainly against the General, but it will be assumed by his friends that the witnesses are in the interest of the President. Every man will judge for himself. But there is one point in the General's conduct that does not look well. He asks for the President's written instructions not to obey an order purporting to come from him through the War Department unless he (General Grant) knew it to be from the President himself. This order is given in writing. Upon receiving it, however, General Grant writes to the President that inasmuch as no instructions had been given to Mr. Stanton to issue no orders in the name of the President, he (General G.) would be bound to obey orders so issued. There seems in this to be an afterthought-some equivocation. One thing plainly settled in the correspondence is that General Grant has gone over, horse, foot, and dragoons, to the Radical party. He seems to have imitated the ingenious logic of the Radicals in the reasons he gives for having consented to succeed Mr. Stanton. The everlasting fear that the President would not execute the reconstruction laws had taken possession of the General! A great fall from Appomattox and the apple tree! This correspondence is a sad one for this nation.
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“The President and General Grant,” Reconstructing Virginia, accessed January 17, 2022, https://reconstructingvirginia.richmond.edu/items/show/827.