Monday, June 20, 2011

June 26, 1877 --- A Presidential Visit

The American Civil War general and former-President, Ulysses Grant, is to dine at Windsor Castle with the Queen. Out of office but three months, Grant is on a world tour. Not afforded the higher honor of a state dinner, the Grants are invited to a private supper. The evening is not a success.

The Grants arrived more than an hour early. Worse, since but sixteen places are set at such affairs, the Grants arrive with their uninvited 19-year old son, Jesse, in tow. Anxious confabulations ensue. Jesse flatly refuses to dine other than with his parents and vows to return to London, a threat the Queen is willing to test. Dinner-table diplomacy conquers the moment and, despite injured feelings, The Court Circular records that "Mr. Jesse Grant" is listed among the Queen's guests. Nonetheless, Victoria dismissed the young man in her journal as "a very ill-mannered young Yankee."

The Queen retires early, citing fatigue. Mrs. Grant offers her sympathy, for "I too have been the wife of a great ruler." In her journal, the Queen records her impression of Mrs. Grant as "civil and complementary in her funny American way." The Grants take their leave early the next morning, without seeing the Queen again. It must be said, Grant failed to charm London. Disraeli found him "more honourable than pleasant." Touring Wellington's Apsley House, Grant commented - in unfeigned admiration -- that the late Duke had done so much with fewer men and arms than he commanded in America. The remark was attacked as mere boast and drew rebukes; The Times suggested that Grant had "culpably wasted the lives of his men." The Spectator dismissed him as a "very third-rate statesman."

Beyond London, however, Grant was greeted with great crowds, especially in the Midlands, where the Northern cause was the great favorite.  He wrote home appreciative of his reception in England, admitting that "it is more for our country than it is for me."

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