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When the Terrorists Won

When the terrorists won. Nathan Newman argues that we should think much more highly of Ulysses S. Grant as president, because he tried.

NathanNewman.org: Ulysses Grant: Our Greatest President?... [W]e should think more about the true founding of a nation with the Civil War where all men were to be "truly created equal" and the President who worked to make it so. No not Lincoln-- who didn't live to finish the job--but the General, Ulysses Grant, who won the Civil War and went on to be the President who would oversee the ratification of the 15th Amendment and enactment of the civil rights enforcement laws that -- after the interregnum of disuse under Jim Crow -- to this day are a backbone of civil rights in this nation....

If Grant is not more respected, it is because the fight for racial justice and Reconstruction that he oversaw has been so rawly defamed over our history to the point of almost being forgotten. As W.E.B. DuBois wrote "[n]ot a single great leader of the nation during the Civil War and Reconstruction has escaped attack and libel." But Grant's accomplishments should be remembered.... Even as Grant was being elected in 1868, he faced Klan-based racial terrorism fighting to manipulate the vote throughout the South. The first result was the 15th Amendment to protect the right to vote but as importantly was the creation under Grant of the Department of Justice in 1871 and a series of "Enforcement Acts" to eliminate Klan violence. The language was sweeping in its defense of black voting rights.... Grant used his new authority to crack down on Klan terrorism in nine South Carolina counties in 1871 and essentially destroyed the Klan there and then throughout the South....

Unfortunately, his successors abandoned those commitments.... So what went wrong and why isn't Grant more honored. Basically, both his policies and reputation were murdered by Klan violence supported by the United States Supreme Court.... [I]n 1873 there was a new surge of racist violence and this time the courts blocked the Grant administration from enforcing the new civil rights laws. Racist violence ran wild as the courts blocked prosecution of the ringleaders. The key legal case was based on an incident in Colfax, Louisiana where more than a hundred people defending black voting rights were murdered by a white mob, yet the prosecution against the leaders were thrown out by lower courts and the Supreme Court in 1875's Cruikshank v. US would affirm that decision, saying that the federal government lacked any power to prosecute private individuals for racial crimes against other individuals. According to that Court, the 14th Amendment "adds nothing to the rights of one citizen as against another."... Reconstruction governments were driven from office throughout the South. Violence destroyed the Republican Party in Mississippi.... In 1876, Confederate General Matthew Butler led a white mob to murder an opposing black militia defending the South Carolina government -- and was then elected to the United States Senate by the new, "redeemed" legislature...

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