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Ulysses S. Grant Quotes


General Grant Quotes

“Although a soldier by profession, I have never felt any sort of fondness for war, and I have never advocated it, except as a means of peace.”

– Ulysses S. Grant

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Ulysses S. Grant Quotes on Education


“The framers of our Constitution firmly believed that a republican government could not endure without intelligence and education generally diffused among the people. The Father of his Country, in his Farewell Address, uses this language: Promote, then, as an object of primary importance, institutions for the general diffusion of knowledge. In proportion as the structure of a government gives force to public opinion, it is essential that public opinion should be enlightened.” – Ulysses S. Grant
“I would therefore call upon Congress to take all the means within their constitutional powers to promote and encourage popular education throughout the country, and upon the people everywhere to see to it that all who possess and exercise political rights shall have the opportunity to acquire the knowledge which will make their share in the Government a blessing and not a danger. By such means only can the benefits contemplated by this amendment to the Constitution be secured.” – Ulysses S. Grant
“The free school is the promoter of that intelligence which is to preserve us as a nation. If we are to have another contest in the near future of our national existence, I predict that the dividing line will not be Mason’s and Dixon’s, but between patriotism and intelligence on one sight, and superstition, ambition, and ignorance on the other. Now in this centennial year of our national existence, I believe it a good time to begin the work of strengthening the foundation of the house commenced by our patriotic forefathers one hundred years ago, at Concord and Lexington.” – Ulysses S. Grant
“Encourage free schools, and resolve that not one dollar of money shall be appropriated to the support of any sectarian school. Resolve that neither the state nor nation, or both combined, shall support institutions of learning other than those sufficient to afford every child growing up in the land the opportunity of a good common school education, unmixed with sectarian, Pagan, or Atheistical tenets. Leave the matter of religion to the family altar, the church, and the private school, supported entirely by private contributions. Keep the church and the State forever separate. With these safeguards, I believe the battles which created the Army of the Tennessee will not have been fought in vain.” – Ulysses S. Grant, As Quoted in Seventh State of the Union Address                  

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Ulysses S. Grant Quotes on Freedom & Slavery


“As soon as slavery fired upon the flag it was felt, we all felt, even those who did not object to slaves, that slavery must be destroyed. We felt that it was a stain to the Union that men should be bought and sold like cattle.”

– Ulysses S. Grant, To Otto von Bismarck in June 1878, as quoted in Young, John Russell (1879)



“There had to be an end of slavery. Then we were fighting an enemy with whom we could not make a peace. We had to destroy him. No convention, no treaty was possible – only destruction.”

– Ulysses S. Grant, To Otto von Bismarck in June 1878, as quoted in Young, John Russell (1879). Around the World with General Grant.




“It is probably well that we had the war when we did. We are better off now than we would have been without it, and have made more rapid progress than we otherwise should have made… But this war was a fearful lesson, and should teach us the necessity of avoiding wars in the future.”

– Ulysses S. Grant, As Quoted in Personal Memoirs of General U. S. Grant  


“Prior to the rebellion the great mass of the people were satisfied to remain near the scenes of their birth. In fact an immense majority of the whole people did not feel secure against coming to want should they move among entire strangers. So much was the country divided into small communities that localized idioms had grown up, so that you could almost tell what section a person was from by hearing him speak… This is all changed now. The war begot a spirit of independence and enterprise. The feeling now is, that a youth must cut loose from his old surroundings to enable him to get up in the world. There is now such a commingling of the people that particular idioms and pronunciation are no longer localized to any great extent; the country has filled up “from the centre all around to the sea”; railroads connect the two oceans and all parts of the interior; maps, nearly perfect, of every part of the country are now furnished the student of geography.”

– Ulysses S. Grant, As Quoted in Personal Memoirs of General U. S. Grant 


“The right of revolution is an inherent one. When people are oppressed by their government, it is a natural right they enjoy to relieve themselves of the oppression, if they are strong enough, either by withdrawal from it, or by overthrowing it and substituting a government more acceptable. But any people or part of a people who resort to this remedy, stake their lives, their property, and every claim for protection given by citizenship — on the issue. Victory, or the conditions imposed by the conqueror — must be the result.”

– Ulysses S. Grant, As Quoted in Personal Memoirs of General U. S. Grant

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Ulysses S. Grant Quotes on Life & Death


 

“There is nothing more I should do to it now, and therefore I am not likely to be more ready to go than at this moment.”

– Ulysses S. Grant, As Quoted in his Memoirs about a week before he died, as quoted in Famous Last Words (2001) by Alan Bisbort           


“The war has made us a nation of great power and intelligence. We have but little to do to preserve peace, happiness and prosperity at home, and the respect of other nations. Our experience ought to teach us the necessity of the first; our power secures the latter.”

– Ulysses S. Grant, As Quoted in Personal Memoirs of General U. S. Grant     

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Ulysses S. Grant Quotes about Peace

The Peacemakers 1868


“Though I have been trained as a soldier, and participated in many battles, there never was a time when, in my opinion, some way could not be found to prevent the drawing of the sword. I look forward to an epoch when a court, recognized by all nations, will settle international differences, instead of keeping large standing armies as they do in Europe.”

– Ulysses S. Grant, As quoted in “International Arbitration” by W. H. Dellenback


“What General Lee’s feelings were I do not know. As he was a man of much dignity, with an impassible face, it was impossible to say whether he felt inwardly glad that the end had finally come, or felt sad over the result, and was too manly to show it. Whatever his feelings, they were entirely concealed from my observation; but my own feelings, which had been quite jubilant on the receipt of his letter, were sad and depressed. I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse. I do not question, however, the sincerity of the great mass of those who were opposed to us.”

– Ulysses S. Grant, As Quoted in Personal Memoirs of General U. S. Grant    

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Ulysses S. Grant Quotes about Politics


“It is preposterous to suppose that the people of one generation can lay down the best and only rules of government for all who are to come after them, and under unforeseen contingencies.”

– Ulysses S. Grant, As Quoted in Personal Memoirs of General U. S. Grant  


“I don’t underrate the value of military knowledge, but if men make war in slavish obedience to rules, they will fail.”

– Ulysses S. Grant, As quoted in A History of Militarism: Romance and Realities of a Profession by Alfred Vagts      


“The cause of the great War of the Rebellion against the United Status will have to be attributed to slavery. For some years before the war began it was a trite saying among some politicians that “A state half slave and half free cannot exist.” All must become slave or all free, or the state will go down. I took no part myself in any such view of the case at the time, but since the war is over, reviewing the whole question, I have come to the conclusion that the saying is quite true.”

– Ulysses S. Grant, As Quoted in Personal Memoirs of General U. S. Grant  


“In regard to foreign policy, I would deal with nations as equitable law requires individuals to deal with each other, and I would protect the law-abiding citizen, whether of native or foreign birth, wherever his rights are jeopardized or the flag of our country floats. I would respect the rights of all nations, demanding equal respect for our own. If others depart from this rule in their dealings with us, we may be compelled to follow their precedent.”

– Ulysses S. Grant, As Quoted in the First State of the Union Address


“As the United States is the freest of all nations, so, too, its people sympathize with all people struggling for liberty and self-government; but while so sympathizing it is due to our honor that we should abstain from enforcing our views upon unwilling nations and from taking an interested part, without invitation, in the quarrels between different nations or between governments and their subjects. Our course should always be in conformity with strict justice and law, international and local.”

– Ulysses S. Grant, As Quoted in First State of the Union Address


“I leave comparisons to history, claiming only that I have acted in every instance from a conscientious desire to do what was right, constitutional, within the law, and for the very best interests of the whole people. Failures have been errors of judgment, not of intent.”

– Ulysses S. Grant


“I never wanted to get out of a place as much as I did to get out of the presidency.”

– Ulysses S. Grant, As quoted in Around the World with General Grant Vol. 2 (1879) by John Russell Young   


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Ulysses S. Grant Quotes on War

Ulysses Grant 3

“Wars produce many stories of fiction, some of which are told until they are believed to be true.”

– Ulysses S. Grant, As Quoted in Personal Memoirs of General U. S. Grant 


Oh, I am heartily tired of hearing about what Lee is going to do. Some of you always seem to think he is suddenly going to turn a double somersault, and land in our rear and on both of our flanks at the same time. Go back to your command, and try to think what we are going to do ourselves, instead of what Lee is going to do.

– Ulysses S. Grant, Quoted by General Horace Porter in Campaigning with Grant, The Century Magazine (December, 1896).


“The art of war is simple enough. Find out where your enemy is. Get at him as soon as you can. Strike him as hard as you can, and keep moving on.”

– Ulysses S. Grant, Statement to John Hill Brinton


“We will not deny to any of those who fought against us any privileges under the government which we claim for ourselves; on the contrary, we honor all such who come forward in good faith to help build up the waste places, and to perpetuate our institutions against all enemies, as brothers in full interest with us in a common heritage; but we are not prepared to apologize for the part we took in the war. It is to be hoped that like trials will never again befall our country. In this sentiment no class of people can more heartily join than the soldier, who submitted to the dangers, trials, and hardships of the camp and the battlefield. On whichever side they may have fought, no class of people are more interested in guarding against a recurrence of those days.”

– Ulysses S. Grant


“God gave us Lincoln and Liberty, let us fight for both.”

– Ulysses S. Grant, A toast made by Grant before his operations in the Vicksburg Campaign


“The war is over — the rebels are our countrymen again.”

– Ulysses S. Grant, Upon stopping his men from cheering after Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House (9 April 1865).


“As we approached the brow of the hill from which it was expected we could see Harris’ camp, and possibly find his men ready formed to meet us, my heart kept getting higher and higher until it felt to me as though it was in my throat. I would have given anything then to have been back in Illinois, but I had not the moral courage to halt and consider what to do; I kept right on. When we reached a point from which the valley below was in full view I halted. The place where Harris had been encamped a few days before was still there and the marks of a recent encampment were plainly visible, but the troops were gone. My heart resumed its place. It occurred to me at once that Harris had been as much afraid of me as I had been of him. This was a view of the question I had never taken before; but it was one I never forgot afterwards. From that event to the close of the war, I never experienced trepidation upon confronting an enemy, though I always felt more or less anxiety. I never forgot that he had as much reason to fear my forces as I had his. The lesson was valuable.”

– Ulysses S. Grant, Account of his effort as Colonel of the 21st Infantry of Illinois, to engage Confederate Colonel Thomas Harris in northern Missouri


“Although a soldier by profession, I have never felt any sort of fondness for war, and I have never advocated it, except as a means of peace.”

– Ulysses S. Grant

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Ulysses S. Grant Policy on Reconstruction


“Looking back over the whole policy of reconstruction, it seems to me that the wisest thing would have been to have continued for some time the military rule. Sensible Southern men see now that there was no government so frugal, so just, and fair as what they had under our generals. That would have enabled the Southern people to pull themselves together and repair material losses. As to depriving them, even for a time, of suffrage, that was our right as a conqueror, and it was a mild penalty for the stupendous crime of treason. Military rule would have been just to all, to the negro who wanted freedom, the white man who wanted protection, the Northern man who wanted Union. As State after State showed a willingness to come into the Union, not on their own terms but upon ours, I would have admitted them. This would have made universal suffrage unnecessary, and I think a mistake was made about suffrage. It was unjust to the negro to throw upon him the responsibilities of citizenship, and expect him to be on even terms with his white neighbor. It was unjust to the North. In giving the South negro suffrage, we have given the old slave-holders forty votes in the electoral college. They keep those votes, but disfranchise the negroes. That is one of the gravest mistakes in the policy of reconstruction. It looks like a political triumph for the South, but it is not. The Southern people have nothing to dread more than the political triumph of the men who led them into secession. That triumph was fatal to them in 1860. It would be no less now. The trouble about military rule in the South was that our people did not like it. It was not in accordance with our institutions. I am clear now that it would have been better for the North to have postponed suffrage, reconstruction, State governments, for ten years, and held the South in a territorial condition. It was due to the North that the men who had made war upon us should be powerless in a political sense forever. It would have avoided the scandals of the State governments, saved money, and enabled the Northern merchants, farmers, and laboring men to reorganize society in the South. But we made our scheme, and must do what we can with it. Suffrage once given can never be taken away, and all that remains for us now is to make good that gift by protecting those who have received it.”

– Ulysses S. Grant, Speech in London, as quoted in Memorial Life of Gen. Ulysses S. Grant (1889) Edited by  Stephen Merrill Allen 

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Quotes about Ulysses S. Grant


“It will be a thousand years before Grant’s character is fully appreciated. Grant is the greatest soldier of our time if not all time … he fixes in his mind what is the true objective and abandons all minor ones. He dismisses all possibility of defeat. He believes in himself and in victory. If his plans go wrong he is never disconcerted but promptly devises a new one and is sure to win in the end. Grant more nearly impersonated the American character of 1861-65 than any other living man. Therefore he will stand as the typical hero of the great Civil War in America.”

– William Tecumseh Sherman in 1885, as quoted in Grant’s Final Victory: Ulysses S. Grant’s Heroic Last Year (2011), by Charles Bracelen Flood.


“In four years he had risen, without political favor, from the bottom to the very highest command, — not second to any living commander in all the world! His plans were large, his undiscouraged will was patient to obduracy… In all this career he never lost courage or equanimity. With a million men, for whose movements he was responsible, he yet carried a tranquil mind, neither depressed by disasters nor elated by success. Gentle of heart, familiar with all, never boasting, always modest, Grant came of the old, self-contained sock, men of a sublime force of being, which allied his genius to the great elemental forces of nature, — silent, invisible, irresistible. When his work was done, and the defeat of Confederate armies was final, this dreadful man of blood was tender toward his late adversaries as a woman toward her son. He imposed no humiliating conditions, spared the feelings of his antagonists, sent home the disbanded Southern men with food and with horses for working their crops.”

– Henry Ward Beecher, as quoted in Eulogy on Grant


“If he neglected the rules of war, as at Vicksburg, it was to make better rules for those who were strong enough to employ them. Counselors gave him materials. He formed his own plans. Abhorring show, simple in manner, gentle in his intercourse, modest and even diffident in regard to his own personality, he seems to have been the only man in camp who was ignorant of his own greatness.”

– Henry Ward Beecher, as quoted in in Eulogy on Grant


“A man he was without vices, with an absolute hatred for lies, and an ineradicable love of truth, of a perfect loyalty to friendship, neither envious of others nor selfish for himself. With a zeal for the public good unfeigned, he has left to memory only such weaknesses as connect him with humanity, and such virtues as will rank him among heroes. The tidings of his death, long expected, gave a shock to the whole world. Governments, rulers, eminent statesmen, and scholars from all civilized nations gave sincere tokens of sympathy. For the hour, sympathy rolled as a wave over all our own land. It closed the last furrow of war, it extinguished the last prejudice, it effaced the last vestige of hatred, and cursed be the hand that shall bring them back! Johnston and Buckner on one side, Sherman and Sheridan upon the other of his bier, he has come to his tomb a silent symbol that liberty had conquered slavery, patriotism rebellion, and peace] war. He rests in peace.”

– Henry Ward Beecher as quoted in Eulogy on Grant


“I know the man. I like a man in the Presidential chair . . . such as the poor people of my own race, as well as the poor people of every other race, can approach, and approach easily.”

– Frederick Douglass, as quoted in Frederick Douglass American Hero (2008), by Connie A. Miller 


“I wish some of you would tell me the brand of whiskey that Grant drinks. I would like to send a barrel of it to my other generals.”

– Statement attributed to Abraham Lincoln in response to complaints about Grant’s drinking habits (November 1863); as quoted in Wit and Wisdom of the American Presidents: A Book of Quotations (2000) by Joslyn T. Pine

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