President Grant: Retirement (1877-85)

Figure 1.-- This is former-President Ulysses S. Grant and his family. The portrait was take June 19, 1885. The President is in rocking chair, notice the shawl around his throat. He is surrounded by family on the porch of their New York home. He is with his eldest son, Col. Fred Grant with daughter in-laws amd grandchildren on steps.

After retiring from the Presidency (1877) and taking his triumphant foreign trip, Grant became a partner in a financial firm. Thanks to the shady practices of his partner, the firm went bankrupt, leaving Grant with many bills (1884). It was a disater and Grant lost virtually all his money. The family was left pennyless. About the same time the financial firm failed, Grant was told that he had cancer of the throat. Grant was known for smoking cigars. He used some seven to ten cigars a day. Many rather than smoking he chewed. A reporter during the War wrote that Grant liked cigars. People all over the country began sending him cigars as gifts. He reportedly received over 20,000 cigars. The relationship between tobacco and cancer was unknown at the time. All those cigars probably contributed to his throat cancer. At the time, presidents did not receive pensions. Grant had forfeited his military pension when he became president. It looked like Julia would be left penyless. Mark Twain steped in to save the family. He offered Grant a generous deal to write his memoirs. He started writing his memoirs to pay off his debts and provide for Julia and his family. In perhaps his greatest act of courage, he labored in pain, racing against cancer and death to complete his memoirs. Racing against death, he produced a memoir that ultimately earned nearly $450,000. Congress passed a bill creating him a general on the retired list, making Julia eligible for aension. He retired to a cottage at Mount McGregor, near Saratoga, New York. Here he spent the final five weeks of his life Soon after completing the last page of his memoirs he passed away. He died at Mount MacGregor, New York (July 23, 1885). He was only 63 years old. While historians disagree on many aspects of Grant's life, there is universal acclim that he produced a masterpiece, the greatest of all presidential memoirs. The memoirs proved to be a sensation. They sold over 300,000 copies and earned the Grant family over $450,000, a tremendous sum at the time. Congress passed legislation establishing a pension for presidents until 1958. Grant's body was placed in a temporary tomb at Riverside Drive in New York City, a site overlooking the Hudson river.


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Created: 7:09 PM 3/14/2013
Last changed: 7:09 PM 3/14/2013