During presidency of Ulysses Grant many of his
associates and government officials including members of
his cabinet took part in tax evasion and were involved
in bribery and taking kickbacks. Grantism undermined the
position of the president and control of local and
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
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
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
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'.
Grantism for kids: The Credit Mobilier Scandal
Credit Mobilier Scandal
involved charges of bribery in connection with the building
of the Pacific railroads and implicated a member of the House of
Representatives and other member of Congress. Grantís
vice-president, Colfax, was linked to this scandal
Grantism: The Belknap Scandal
Belknap Scandal involved
the bribery of William Worth Belknap the U.S. Secretary
of War which led to
Grantism: The Black Friday Scandal
Black Friday Scandal in which
group of financial speculators attempted to corner the gold market.
Grantís brother-in-law, Abel Corbin, was involved in this
Grantism: The Whiskey Scandal
Whiskey Ring Scandal
concerned a conspiracy of distillers to bribe government officials
and to defraud the government of the excise taxes on liquor. John McDonald an old army buddy
and friend of President Grant was involved
in this scandal as was Grantís private secretary.
Grantism: The Star Route Scandal
Scandal investigations started during Grant's administration,
though the presidencies of Hayes, Garfield and was finally shut down
during the presidency of Chester A. Arthur.
Grantism: The Significance of Grantism
The Significance of Grantism was a s follows:
reputation of President Grant was damaged and
his power was undermined due to allegations of
Republican party was split due to the scandals
and allegations of Grantism and the Liberal
Service Commission was established in 1871
highlighted the problems of the Spoils System
which was eventually discontinued in 1883