Read CHAPTER XVIII - THE TOUR OF THE WORLD of Ulysses S. Grant , free online book, by Walter Allen, on

Upon leaving the presidency General Grant retained the distinction of first citizen of the nation. There was no fame of living man that could vie with his. His old form of modesty and simplicity was resumed. As soon as he stepped down from the pedestal of power the criticism of duty and the criticism of malice both ceased. A generous people was glad to forget his errors and remember only his patriotism and his transcendent successes in arms. Even those who had most deprecated his mistakes as a civil magistrate were hardly sorry that he had been repeatedly rewarded for his great services by the highest honor popular suffrage could bestow. They were ready to believe, as, indeed, was true, that in most of the things deserving reprobation he was the victim of his innocence of selfish politics and his unwary friendships, of which baser men had taken foul advantage. They were glad for his sake, as much as for their own, that he was no longer President Grant, but again General Grant, a title purely reminiscent and complimentary, for he was no longer an officer of the army. With all his honors about him, he stood on the common level of citizenship, as when he was a farmer in Missouri or a tanner’s clerk in Galena.

There came to him then the desire to see other lands and peoples and to meet the renowned commanders in other wars, the actors in other statesmanship. It was determined that he should have all the opportunities and advantages which the national prestige could command for its foremost unofficial representative. No other American had gone abroad whose achievements bespoke for him so respectful a welcome among the great. Every aid was availed of to make it apparent that our nation expected him to be entertained as its beloved hero. He sailed from Philadelphia on May 17, 1877, and, returning, he landed in San Francisco September 20, 1879, having made the circuit of the globe.

Of such another progress there is no record. He visited nearly every country of Europe, the Holy Land, Egypt, Syria, India, Burmah, China, Siam, and Japan, being everywhere received as the guest of their rulers, and welcomed by the chief representatives of their statesmanship, their learning, and their social life. He was received with high courtesies by Queen Victoria of England, President McMahon and President Grevy of France, the emperors of Germany, Russia, and Austria, the kings of Belgium, Italy, Holland, Sweden, and Spain, Pope Leo XIII., the Sultan of Turkey, the Khedive of Egypt, the Duke of Wellington, Prince Bismarck, M. Gambetta, Lord Lytton, Viceroy of India, King Thebau of Burmah, Prince Kung of China, the Emperor of Siam, the Mikado of Japan, and many others only less famous. With few exceptions he met under the most favorable circumstances all persons of note in all the lands he visited. Extraordinary pains were taken to promote the comfort of his party, and to enable its members to see whatever was most worth seeing.

The recipient of all this flattering attention bore himself with a simple dignity that won the respect of the high and the low alike. He was neither awed nor abashed among the great, nor was he haughty or presuming among the common people. The nation at home followed his progress with pride and gratification. When he landed in San Francisco, he was welcomed as a favorite who had achieved new distinction for himself and his land, and his leisurely way across the continent was marked by a series of ovations all the way to New York. To complete his itinerary, he soon made a tour of the West Indies and of Mexico, visiting the scenes where he had won his first laurels, as Lieutenant Grant, thirty years before. He was honored as the warrior whose victories, besides uniting and exalting his native land, had delivered Mexico from the imposition of an alien imperialism.

Unfortunately, this revived popularity of General Grant was taken advantage of by a faction of the Republican party to urge again his reelection to the presidency. New York, Pennsylvania, and Illinois were committed to his support by the influence of their powerful Republican leaders; but not unanimously. The movement is supposed to have been undertaken without consultation with Grant; but he did nothing to discourage it, and to this extent he consented to it. The attempt failed. Prudent people had no mind to have their hero’s good name again made opprobrious by fresh scandals, which they could not but dread.