Ulysses S. Grant: Why Experience Matters
We often hear of the importance of experience. When we apply for jobs, our experience is a common inquiry to which we are expected to respond. Even with the recent presidential election, the issue of experience was a hot issue because no one likes to be lead by one that is inexperienced. A perfect example of why we do not want this to happen is illustrated with Ulysses S. Grant. While Grant might have a hero in the battlefield, he was not a hero in the white House. Grant demonstrates the importance of being politically minded when running for office. The country placed their hope in him and his inexperience turned out to be the reason why so many things went wrong during his administration. He was too loyal to his friends in office when he should have been loyal to the voters. This behavior caused him to look shady if he was actually innocent of any wrongdoing. We learn from Grant that we can be guilty by association, especially when that association is within the wall of the White House. Grant was not experienced enough to put his personal feelings aside and as a result, his presidency failed.
Grant did not have the kind of experience he needed to run the country. William Church claims that one of Grant's major downfalls was his inexperience for the office of president. He was "not the leader of a faction, but the spontaneous choice of the People" (367) and his was unable to appreciate the difficulties that awaited him in office. Nothing in his past could prepare him for what lay ahead and his lack of experience with civil administration would not allow him to "fully understand and to circumvent the intrigues of partisans and place-hunters" (367). He also lacked experience in the ability to sway others to agree with his point-of-view. In short, Grant was a "soldier, and not a politician" (368). Church reports that Grant was a "statesman in his large views of public and national interests, but he lacked the experience than once led Lincoln to make the extreme statement the 'honest statesmanship is the employment of individual meannesses for the public good'" (Church 368). Zwicker agrees with this notion, adding Grant was a novice when it came to politics. Before becoming president, he was "so disinterested that he had voted only once in his life. He entered the White House a political amateur" (Zwicker). Grant mistakenly believed that experience in the war would make him a leader in the White House.
One of Grant's stumbling blocks was the fact that he thought he could run things differently and, therefore, better. Grant's trouble started shortly after he began naming his cabinet. Instead of selecting political leaders, Grant decided to make choices based on other guidelines but that soon turned out to be a hasty decision. William Church claims that while no president ever secures "universal approval" for his office selections, Grant had the added notoriety of added opposition because "he would not yield to demands sometimes sordid and vile, touching on patronage" (Church 372). He was also accused of being a "most troublesome" (372) man in public life. After a.T. Stewart for Secretary of Treasury was selected and confirmed, it was soon discovered that he was ineligible for the position according to a Congressional act that forbade the Secretary of State to be concerned or interested in carrying out any type of business or trade. Grant's second choice for the position, Rockwood Hoar, was found to be ineligible because two appointees could not be from the same state. These examples illustrate how "no President could make himself independent of existing political conditions" (371). Church writes that after Grant had been in office long enough to "learn something of the evils of the existing system for the selection of Government employees" (373), he attempted to change them. It is with Grant that the first attempt to reform civil service took place.
Another factor in Grant's failure was his intense loyalty to his cabinet. Grant was mocked for much of the shenanigans of his cabinet. George Robeson was accused of accepting bribes regarding naval contracts and William Belknap was forced to resign from Secretary of War because he was selling Indian post trader ships. Grant's personal secretary was implicated in the Whiskey Ring Scandal. While it was never proven that Grant…