Did Grant Only Want "second rate men" in His Cabinet? Charles Francis Adams on Grant

Pat Young

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Forum Host
Featured Book Reviewer
Jan 7, 2013
Long Island, NY
In the first week of December, 1868, former ambassador to Britain Charles Francis Adams dined with President-Elect U.S. Grant. Adams was rumored to be under consideration for Secretary of State. In his new history of Grant's presidency, Charles Calhoun discusses that dinner:

At a dinner in Boston the general met Charles Francis Adams, the son and grandson of presidents, who had recently completed seven years as America’s minister to Great Britain and was now on many handicappers’ short lists for secretary of state. At the dinner Adams saw “wisdom” in Grant’s reserve, but he also thought such reticence was “partly due to a consciousness of inability to converse with any fund of resources to sustain himself.” Adams confided to his diary, “My instincts seem to repel me so much from him, that I am relieved to think there is no probability of my being tried by any offer of confidence.” Still, Adams believed that “on any principle of public service I ought to be the secretary of state.” When rumors persisted that he might be selected, he told himself, “I cannot flinch or shirk danger.” But the rumors proved false, and a week before the inauguration, Adams concluded that Grant wanted only “second rate men.” Like Sumner, Adams could not muster respect for the mediocre man who had the temerity to forgo his services. At least, he observed, “I have had the . . . good fortune in not being called to the hopeless task of educating him.”
Calhoun, Charles W.. The Presidency of Ulysses S. Grant (American Presidency Series) (p. 61). University Press of Kansas. Kindle Edition.

(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)


2nd Lieutenant
Jul 28, 2015
New York City
Seems like sour grapes by Charles Francis Adams. Didn't Grant do well in appointing his own staff and recognizing and promoting talented commanders like Sherman, Sheridan, and Emory Upton during the CW?
Jul 24, 2017
The Adamses certainly did not like Grant, and were eloquent and quotable to boot. I think their grandfather, John Quincy Adams, was one of those great underappreciated Americans, particularly his years as an anti slavery Congessman after his presidency, very courageous and willing to be unpopular. I don’t get the same impression about his grandsons.

(Membership has it privileges! To remove this ad: Register NOW!)