Grantism Origins: Senator Charles Sumner
What were the origins of Grantism? Grantism was a derogatory term that was originally coined by Senator Charles Sumner in a political speech on May 31, 1872. Senator Sumner (January 6, 1811 Ė March 11, 1874) was a personal and political enemy of Ulysses S. Grant and took the opportunity to criticize the president during the Presidential election campaigns of 1872. Senator Charles Sumner was the chief Republican radical leader in the Senate during Reconstruction era. He bitterly opposed the re-election of President Grant and supported the 1872 Liberal Republican presidential candidate Horace Greeley.
Grantism for kids: The Meaning of Grantism
The overall meaning of Grantism was summarized by Charles Sumner as a despotic government of "one man and his personal will". Sumner viewed the government of Grant as dictatorial, tyrannical, authoritarian and repressive. In his speech of May 31, 1872 Senator Charles Sumner accused President Grant of political patronage, nepotism (favoritism), and comparing his presidency to the autocrat ideals of Julius Caesar.
Grantism for kids: President Grant
Were Charles Sumner's criticisms of President Grant substantiated? Some were. Grant was a military hero of the Civil War. He had no experience of politics and ran his administration like a military regime, perhaps in an autocratic manner. The accusation of political patronage and nepotism (favoritism) was undoubtedly true. But this was 'custom and practice' of presidential administrations and related to the Spoils System that had been particularly favored by President Andrew Jackson.
Grantism for kids: The Spoils System
President Grant advocated and operated the Spoils System in which the appointment of loyal party supporters was a more important qualification for a job than competence or merit. He appointed friends, associates and supporters to powerful positions in government and used the recommendations of friends to make these appointments. The Spoils System led to abuses of political power and was the breeding ground of bribery and corruption. The Spoils System would continue until the Pendleton Federal Civil Service Act was passed in 1883 during the presidency of Chester Arthur.
Grantism for kids: The Scandals in the Grant Administration
Ulysses S. Grant was an honest man - he was not connected with the bribery and corruption of his administration, his personal integrity was never in question. He could, however, be criticized for some of his decision making skills and his questionable judgment in making some political appointments. There were numerous scandals in the Grant Administration. The Democrats took advantage of the tales and rumors of bribery and corruption and expanded the investigations against the Republican administration. These included the Whiskey Ring Scandal, the Black Friday Scandal, the Credit Mobilier Scandal, the Sanborn Grab Fraud, the Belknap Scandal, the Emma Silver Mine scandal, Navy Contracts scandal. The details of the scandals were highly publicized and damaged the reputation of the president. His inability to quickly quash domestic controversy created chaos in national politics and the popular use of the term "Grantism'.