Ulysses S. Grant, Jr.
Here are the recollections of Ulysses S. Grant, Jr. (1852-1929), the second son of Ulysses S. Grant. He was popularly known as "Buck."
"He was the gentlest and loveliest character I ever knew..."
Julia with Ulysses Jr. and Fred, in 1854
From the Hamlin Garland Papers, Doheny Library, University of Southern California
During the Presidential term (1869-77), my father was intimate but with few people. He was not a man who invited much. His life was very quiet. He submitted to being bored by some of his callers, although he rarely gave any clue to his feelings. Once he was betrayed into saying: "Oh! Good gracious!" when a particular's bore's name was announced. Music he cared little for. He didn't hate it, but it interrupted his train of thought. Sometimes he submitted to listening to some simple song, but generally he avoided any kind of music. He called it noise. It always amused us to hear the story of some woman singing for him, because we know that he would run if he could at such a moment.
Buck (standing), in 1866, with Nellie and Jess
During the Presidency every slightest slip was taken advantage of. If anything gave the enemies the appearance of a chance, they pursued it to the bitter end. Every mistake they considered a vice. Every appearance of mistake was a certain crime.... Father couldn't commit to memory but he never told a story differently. He would tell the same story years afterward in precisely the same way. He was one of the simplest of men. When you hear people talking about any intricate plot of involved plots on his part, you may know they are mistaken. Whatever he did, whether it was right or wrong, was simple. It might seem involved to outsiders, but it was not from his point of view. The outsider might get mixed up, but he remained simple in the midst of every complication.
He didn't really want the third term, (in 1880 )and finally, he determined to write a letter declining the nomination. He didn't tell mother about it until after he had gone out and mailed the letter with his own hands. She was much astounded and chagrined and wanted him to go back and get it back. She saw no harm in the third term, but father only smiled and said, 'No, the letter is in the hands of Uncle Sam.' When father was abroad (1877-79), his political friends arranged that he should try again for the third term and had gone so far in their arrangements that when he returned he felt justice in them, and felt he ought to go on. The Presidency was not a thing to be sought, neither was it a thing to refuse if the people felt he ought to have it. But when it came to him, he felt it was his duty to accept it if he could fill the place. He was also incapable of supposing his friends to be dishonest.
As the day of the convention came on, I went out to Galena to see him. I was afraid he was going to be defeated and that it would be a great disappointment to him. I thought I might be of help to him, if he lost, so I went out. On the evening of the nomination, we were in General Rowley's office. We had a private wire and were listening to the reports of the convention. As the account of Conkling's speech came on, and reports that the applause lasting 20 minutes, and then coming again and again, father began to feel uneasy and either from dislike or from modesty, determined to go home. So he said good evening to those in the office and we walked off together. As we got a little way up the walk, he said in a peculiar tone of voice, a little sad it seemed to me, 'I am afraid I may be nominated.' When I heard him say this I immediately felt free to go home, and I took the train at once. It became perfectly evident that he would not take defeat as a calamity. Mother was very much disappointed. She was eager to go back, but father seemed not to care.
Julia Grant with Ulysses S. Grant, Jr. in New York, 1892
Note Julia still wears mourning.
My father, I believe, was unconscious of a chance to enrich himself. He had no temptation, he was not interested in temptation. Money had very little power or value with him. I don't think anybody ever approached him with a bribe. If it was done at all, it was done though some friend whom he loved. He was never greedy, a very little satisfied him. He was gave up a certainty as General of the Army to take up the Presidency, and when he left the White House he was poor. He had brought Wish ton Wish and the entire Dent farm (his in-laws house near St. Louis), and it was a constant drain on him. At the close of the war his salary was $21,000 per year. All that was saved was saved by mother. He gave her half his salary. What became of his share, God only knows. He paid hotel bills for his staff and his friends, he paid fares on the railroad. He gave it all away, for he was not a man who expended money for clothes or for jewelry. His habits were never expensive that way. This man who had once made $60 a month now found himself very little richer with $4,000 a month.
Ulysses S. Grant in 1904, showing a strong resemblance to his father
Once, when mother had a cab in waiting a $5 an hour, father said, 'That would have kept our whole family for a week in 1860.' He gave away enormous sums and money melted out of his hands like snow. Mother was the prudent one. To illustrate, father gave a regular allowance to a man of $150 a month. This man came one day to borrow $50. Father gave it to him, though there was not the slightest reason why he should give him the allowance or the loan. He came again and father said, 'See here, you ought to live within your income.' The man replied, 'I know, but I can't do it.' The General considered the case and said, 'Very well. I will double it.' Grandfather Grant's family never understood this. They always thought that mother was the extravagant one, but father really was the poor manager. It didn't matter to father particularly what he had to eat or to wear. When I went to boarding school he gave me $75 a month, and when I went to college $150 a month - more than twice the sum upon which the whole family lived in 1861.
One night early in his last illness I occupied a small Dutch bed in his room to give Harrison, who attended him, a chance to have a good night's rest. General Grant could command to instant sleep, but would groan and be restless so that I would have to get up to replace a woolen cap about his throat. This would arouse him and as soon as the wrap was in place he fell asleep again at once. At several recurrences of like incidents, my great dear father said, 'I see, Buck, you are not going to get any sleep so we will talk.' He said, 'The doctors are much interested in my case and are making a study of it. No Grant was ever afraid to die and we can talk freely about my cancer and all my symptoms. My only apprehension is that your mother is unprepared for my death and it will shock her. That and the fact that I leave her so poor off financially.'
My father never punished me but once. I remember as we came up to the door after a drive, father was helping mother out, and boy-like, I took the carriage whip and cracked it, and the horses started and nearly threw my grandfather out. Father said, without looking at me, 'That was careless.' That was all he said, but it hurt me. It nearly broke my heart. That was the only time he ever uttered a reproof. He was the gentlest and loveliest character I ever knew. I have seen him angry, but he never raised his voice and never swore. I don't believe he ever uttered an oath in his life. I don't care who tells such stories about him - they are false.