Ulysses S. Grant and the Lost Opportunity for Racial Justice (Reviewing Ron Chernow, Grant (2017))
33 Const. Comment. 331
11 Pages Posted: 23 Aug 2018 Last revised: 24 Aug 2018
Date Written: 2018
Every law student, legal academic, and attorney would benefit from reading Ron Chernow's exhaustive biography of Ulysses S. Grant. At first glance, that recommendation sounds counterintuitive, because Grant was not a lawyer--much less one like Alexander Hamilton. Nor was Grant a distinguished intellectual like Woodrow Wilson, whose novel vision of the Constitution reshaped America in ways that reverberate to this day. Rather, Grant was a failed businessman, a ruthlessly effective but not especially brilliant general, and a mediocre President. Chernow attempts to rehabilitate Grant's military and political reputation. He does so primarily by highlighting Grant's one indispensable contribution to American law and government: spearheading the implementation of Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation and the various constitutional amendments and statutes that sought to guarantee former slaves not merely their liberty but also their civil and political rights.
Keywords: Ulysses S. Grant, racial justice, Ron Chernow, Emancipation Proclamation, civil rights, political rights, constitutional law; legal history
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