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I would argue that the best thing about President Grant’s years in office is that they were not any worse for the United States than they actually turned out to be. We must remember that this was an extraordinarily difficult time in American history. Grant was elected a mere three years after the end of the Civil War. Reconstruction was dividing the nation. Grant’s predecessor in the Oval Office had been impeached. This was a time of great discord in the country.
What we should applaud is that Grant helped to get the country through this tough time. It is certainly true that he did not do a perfect job of it. For example, he was not able to secure the rights of African Americans during Reconstruction. However, it is not at all clear that anyone could have done any better than Grant did in many of the areas where the country had problems.
One thing that is a positive about Grant’s time in office is that the country was expanding. This was a time when big business was industrializing. The transcontinental railroad was completed early in Grant’s time. This allowed a nation-wide economy to be developed. The railroad and industrialization did bring many problems, but they helped build the country that we now have. A second positive is that Grant moved toward a less brutal policy towards Native Americans. Today, we tend to deride the efforts to assimilate Indians by putting them on reservations and pushing them to adopt American ways. However, this was surely a better policy than the policy of trying to exterminate them.
President Grant’s time in office was not a triumphant time in America. We should applaud it because it was a time when the US was getting back on its feet and starting to develop in ways that would later be very beneficial to the country as a whole.
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