Historic sites around the country will mark the 200th anniversary of the birth of Ulysses S. Grant in April 2022. For now, two organizations appear to be leading a national effort.
Grant Monument Association
The Grant Monument Association, founded to support Grant’s Tomb in New York City, plans to list events as they are announced. Meantime, they have started four campaigns for action primarily by the federal government that they are inviting the public to support:
- Grant Sites Initiative: Secure resources for proper care of established sites, memorialize unmarked sites, and propose new memorials to Grant, including locations that should be named for him.
- Bicentennial Coin: As in 1922 at Grant’s centennial, and more recently with the 200th anniversary of the birth of Abraham Lincoln in 2009, Congress should direct the U.S. Mint to strike a coin to commemorate the bicentennial of Grant’s birth.
- Posthumous Military Promotion: Before next April, Congress should appoint Grant posthumously as “General of the Armies of the United States,” as was done for George Washington, with the appointment effective April 9, 1865.
- Postage Stamps: The Postal Service should issue four Grant bicentennial postage stamps, showing Grant at different stages of life, as with stamps for the Lincoln bicentennial in 2009.
U.S. Grant Association
The Ulysses S. Grant Association based at Mississippi State University also plans to start posting bicentennial events from various Grant-related sites in the future.
In 2015 the U.S. Senate designated the USGA as the official organizer of a national Grant Bicentennial celebration. The USGA offers introductory information with more coming soon.
As its tagline, the USGA Grant Bicentennial campaign uses a version of the motto for Grant’s first presidential campaign in 1868, “Let us have peace.” This aspiration from the past is more relevant than ever in the present time when America is riven by angry partisan divisions.
This noble sentiment will be true to Grant’s legacy if we remember that while Grant wanted peace, he insisted that it be accompanied by justice.
Peace with Justice
Grant’s Democratic opponent in the 1868 presidential race, former New York Governor Horatio Seymour, ran an openly racist campaign to restore peaceful relations between formerly warring sections by embracing the white supremacy demanded by the oligarchs of the Old South.
By contrast, Grant stood for maintaining the gains won with so much bloodshed in the Civil War — perpetual union with an end to slavery and full citizenship for Black Americans.
Voters went with Grant, who won the election with a landslide of 214 to 80 in the Electoral College, though the popular vote was closer. In his first inaugural address, the victor of Appomattox expressed his desire to unite the nation:
The country having just emerged from a great rebellion, many questions will come…it is desirable that they should be approached calmly, without prejudice, hate, or sectional pride, remembering that the greatest good to the greatest number is the object to be attained.
Such words should ring loudly today. The Grant Bicentennial celebration will be a chance for Americans everywhere and of all colors to take inspiration from a 200-year-old leader whose story brings the wisdom to address some of today’s biggest challenges.