Why do most Grant biographers ignore this damning episode, in early 1868, when General-in-Chief Grant tried to help depose his superior, President Andrew Johnson? [From Grant Under Fire, pg. 560]
In what may well have been the worst case of insubordination against a commander-in-chief in the nation’s history, the General-in-Chief actually lobbied certain senators to gain a conviction. Bolstering efforts to overthrow Johnson, Grant publicly forecast a threat to the country’s safety in the event of an acquittal. At a much later point, he related a cock-and-bull story about how “he had proof of the President’s plan to revolutionize the government but withheld it for fear of initiating violence.” Meanwhile, he pretended that his opinion on impeachment was merely a private affair. Despite Grant’s conspiring with the Radicals, the proceedings, managed by Thaddeus Stevens, Benjamin Butler, John Logan, and George Boutwell, among others, ended with Johnson’s acquittal by a single vote in the Senate. Grant was accused of being driven more by “personal malice” against Johnson than concern for the country’s welfare. Topping off this sorry episode, he refused to ride to his own inauguration with the outgoing president, as had been customary, or even to let their children play together. Nominated for president, Grant headed out west on June 30th for a long vacation.
Cites: Chicago Tribune, April 4, 1868; N.Y. Times, April 4 and May 15, 1868; N.Y. Times, October 23, 1885; Hartford Courant, April 9 and May 16, 1868; Huntingdon (Penn.) Globe, May 20, 1868; Nelson Cross, The Life of General Grant: His Political Record, etc. (New York: J.S. Redfield, 1872), 37; N.Y. Herald, October 21, 22, and 24, 1885; Badeau, Grant in Peace, 136; Hunt, Israel, Elihu, and Cadwallader Washburn, 236.