Joan Waugh on Grant v. Reagan (yes, as in Ulysses S. and Ronald)

Have you heard? Rep. Patrick McHenry (R-NC) has sponsored a bill to replace U.S. Grant on the $50 bill with Ronald Reagan. In an op-ed for the LA Times, Grant biographer Joan Waugh offers a brief history lesson in defense of the Union general and 18th President of the United States and cautions against further erosion of Grant’s legacy. An excerpt:

There was a time when Republicans did celebrate Grant. In a speech delivered in 1900, for example, Theodore Roosevelt maintained that among the past presidents, the trio emerging as the “mightiest among the mighty [were] the three great figures of Washington, Lincoln and Grant.” Roosevelt’s deeply appreciative comments reflected the widespread respect of his generation for Grant, and for good reason.

Yes, Grant’s administration was marred by corruption and controversy. But Grant himself remained steadfast in his belief that the goals of the war — unity and freedom — should be preserved even as the country’s enthusiasm for biracial reconstruction of the South faded away.

He proudly signed off on the 15th Amendment to the Constitution in 1870, describing the law enabling black suffrage as “a measure of grander importance than any other one act of the kind from the foundation of our free government to the present day.”

Grant’s final task as president hearkened back to his first and perhaps most important achievement: to ensure a stable transition, this time in the disputed election of 1876. He succeeded, and the country reconciled for good.

Read the full text of Waugh’s full piece: Ulysses S. Grant earned his $50 bill.