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15th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States

Section 1. The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude-; Section 2. The Congress shall have the power to enforce this article by appropriate legislation.

Passed by Congress February 26, 1869. Ratified February 3, 1870.


Ulysses S. Grant, Eighteenth President, 1869-1877

Like Zachary Taylor, Ulysses S. Grant was elected to the presidency in honor of his heroic deeds on the battlefield, even though he had absolutely no political background. Not only was Grant lacking in political experience, he also had no particular interest in using the powers of the presidency, and was taken advantage of by dishonest associates. One of Grant's few accomplishments was approval of the Specie Resumption Act, which made it legal to redeem "greenbacks" issued during the Civil War for gold or silver coins. However, the country was more likely to remember Grant's administration for the fraud, graft, scandal, and corruption of his second term. Grant was happy to leave office after eight years.


Civil War and Reconstruction (1850-1877)

The Civil War (1861-1865) was perhaps the most momentous event in American history. The survival of the United States as one nation was at risk, and on the outcome of the war depended the nation's ability to bring to reality the ideals of liberty, equality, human dignity, and justice.

Abraham Lincoln's election to the presidency in 1860 brought to a climax the long festering debate about the relative powers of the federal and the state governments. By the time of his inauguration, six southern states had seceded from the Union and formed the Confederate States of America, soon to be followed by five more. The war that followed between North and South put constitutional government to its severest test. After four bloody years of war, the Union was preserved, four million African American slaves were freed, and an entire nation was released from the oppressive weight of slavery. The war can be viewed in several different ways: as the final, violent phase in a conflict of two regional subcultures; as the breakdown of a democratic political system; as the climax of several decades of social reform; or as a pivotal chapter in American racial history. However interpreted, the Civil War stands as a story of great heroism, sacrifice, triumph, and tragedy.

As important as the war itself was the tangled problem of how to reconstruct the defeated South. Encouraged by the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the Constitution, African Americans at last nourished hopes for full equality. Their hopes were to be dashed. By 1877, Southern white resistance and the withdrawal of federal supervision brought about the "redemption" of the South and African Americans were disenfranchised. The redemption measures enforced greater racial separation and increased white intimidation and violence.


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"Grant, Grant, Grant" Ulysses S. Grant campaign song

"Grant, Grant, Grant" from the recording entitled Presidential Campaign Songs 1789-1996, Folkways 45051, provided courtesy of Smithsonian Folkways Recordings. © 1999. Used by permission.

Melody: "Trump, Trump, Trump"; arranged by Oscar Brand/TRO-Total Music Services, Inc., BMI

Many of the campaign songs for Grant were based on military melodies and themes, like "Grant, Grant, Grant." They extolled his military service. His administration was notable for its corruption, but Grant was reelected as an innocent but heroic dupe.

Partial lyrics:
"...Grant, Grant, Grant
The country’s falling
Goodbye Andy you must go
For the man who’ll be our head
On to victory has led
For to Grant a traitor ever is a foe..."


Related Images

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Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885)
Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885)
Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885)
Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885)

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