Letter: Grant's antisemitism is part of his legacy, too

Posted
To the editor:

It's appropriate that George Will, in his praise of Ulysses Simpson Grant, the 18th president of our country, mentions his many admirable achievements to balance out his too-often-mentioned alcoholism. ("Giving U.S. Grant his just due", Eagle op/ed, Nov. 5.) Quoting Ron Chernow's lengthy biography of Grant, Will goes so far as to state that Grant did much "to preserve the nation." Among his accomplishments to be applauded are his crusade against the Ku Klux Klan and, of course, his military genius in the decisive and thankful outcome of our own Civil War.

However, this said, Will totally ignores the fact that just two weeks before President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, Grant was responsible for the most egregious official act of antisemitism in American history. Grant, wanting to punish war profiteering over the price of cotton, ordered every Jewish man, woman and child out of the vast territories under his command, which included all of Kentucky, Tennessee and Mississippi. No matter that only a small percentage of those involved might have been Jewish — it's a tried-and-true recipe for hatred which works right up to today: smear an entire group with a wide brush.

Lincoln, after hearing of this, immediately sent Grant a telegram to revoke his previous order.

I'm sure Ron Chernow knew of this. Not sure why George Will in his "balanced" comments about Grant, chose to ignore this very important part of Grant's behavior during the war.

Michael Symons,

Great Barrington

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