Yesterday was #presidentsday. So, like any good homeschooling mom, I assigned my three cherubs a writing assignment: Write an Instagram post about your favorite presidential @nationalparkservice site we’ve visited. 🤷♀️😏 #thisishowwehomeschool
The kids all picked sites that were perfect for their personalities, of course. 🥰 2/3 of them chose sites tied to President Lincoln. Very good. I, however, spent the day thinking about a different president.
When Ulysses S. Grant was in his mid-twenties, he married Julia Dent, the daughter of a slave-owning family from Missouri. “Raised in a northern antislavery household, and adamantly opposed to the dissolution of the Union, Ulysses often found himself at odds with the southern Democratic beliefs of the Dent family. Despite living under his father-in-law’s roof in the late 1850s, Ulysses did not hesitate to express his opinions. Heated arguments...often disrupted the home.”
So, the future president of the United States - the one who would lead the Union army in a fight against those who wished to secede - lived on his father-in-law’s plantation. Not only did he live there (for five years), he worked there. He actually oversaw slave labor. Ulysses even owned at least one slave! It is thought that he purchased the slave in order to free him. Still...
I have to wonder: What would happen to a Ulysses S. Grant in today’s time? Under today’s scrutiny? The man is arguably one of our nation’s best. He helped hold the Union together. He advocated and fought for the emancipation of slaves. But. It was much more complicated than that. This man intrigues me. What would it feel like to oversee slaves for your father-in-law...while being adamantly anti-slavery yourself? Again, my thoughts circle around to today’s political climate.
Would we, the people, allow a man like Ulysses to rise to greatness today? Would we see him as complicated & nuanced? Would we disagree with certain aspects of his character, and still overlook them to embrace his good characteristics, his intentions, his devotion to our country? I’m thinking...no. And that makes me sad. Will we prevent people of greatness from ever getting a chance to show it?