NAUGHTY, NAUGHTY, President Grant!

connecticut yankee

First Sergeant
Joined
Jun 2, 2017
There is only one known record of a sitting US President being arrested. In 1872, former Union soldier Henry H. West, then a police officer in Washington, D.C. arrested United States President Ulysses S. Grant...


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Born in 1842 in Prince George's County, Maryland, in his youth West was enslaved. He later fought in the Civil War in Company K, 30th United States Colored Infantry. The regiment was formed in May 1863, and later fought in the Battle of the Crater. West was one of two black policeman working for the Washington DC Police Department during Reconstruction. He was later remembered as "gentlemanly" and fond of good horses, especially fast ones. He married Katherine 'Kate' Bowie in Washington, D.C. in June 1867, with whom he had six children. Henry West retired from the police department in 1901 and died in 1915. He is buried in Columbian Harmony Cemetery (Defunct) in Washington D.C.


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West was appointed to the Metropolitan police force on August 1, 1871. In one version of various stories relating to West and Grant, in 1872 West was patrolling on foot near 13th and M Streets in Washington DC, when he stopped the President for speeding in his horse and buggy and released him with a warning for excessive speed. The next day, West observed Grant repeating the behavior, and arrested him.

"I am very sorry. Mr. President, to have to do it, for you are the chief of the nation and I am nothing but a policeman, but duty is duty, sir, and I will have to place you under arrest."

Grant was taken to the police station and released on a $20 bond (equivalent to $430 in 2019). Grant did not contest the fine or arrest.

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Another version of the story says Police Officer West caught now President U.S. Grant speeding westbound on M. Street between 11th and 12th. Grant's buggy dragged the officer who was holding the bridle some 50 feet; West didn't realize the racing buggy and horse belonged to The President, until they all came to a stop. Story goes that in the MPDC office, Officer West started to apologize and Grant told the officer; "Do your duty!" Officer West then impounded his horse and buggy and arrested Grant. However at the Precinct there was much confusion as the police realized there were no rules or regulations concerning a President arrested for speeding. As a result, Grant wasn't formally booked or charged but he was given a $20.00 fine and his horse and buggy remained impounded. Grant walked back on foot to the Executive Mansion.


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Ironically, this was not the first time Grant was arrested in Washington D.C. General Grant was arrested twice previously for speeding---April 11 and July 1, 1866, when he was still the 'Commander of the Army" He was fined $5.00 each time in Precinct Court (Present day building of D.C. Court of Appeals and then Metropolitan Police Headquarters, jail, court and city hall).



References:
"D.C. police once arrested a U.S. president for speeding". WTOP. October 6, 2012. Rosenwald, Michael S.
"The police officer who arrested a president". The Washington Post.
"Which President Got a Speeding Ticket While Riding a Horse?". Ghosts of DC. March 4, 2014.
"The Thin Blue Line". U.S. Grant Cottage State Historic Site.
"The police officer who arrested a US President – could it happen again?". The Sydney Morning Herald.
Find-A-Grave: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/107912228/william-henry-west
The Metropolitan Police Department of Washington, D.C. 1861 to 2011; 150th Anniversary Edition; page 17--Officers (active/retired) advanced edition and limited product.
 
Joined
Jan 24, 2017
There is only one known record of a sitting US President being arrested. In 1872, former Union soldier Henry H. West, then a police officer in Washington, D.C. arrested United States President Ulysses S. Grant...


View attachment 343529



Born in 1842 in Prince George's County, Maryland, in his youth West was enslaved. He later fought in the Civil War in Company K, 30th United States Colored Infantry. The regiment was formed in May 1863, and later fought in the Battle of the Crater. West was one of two black policeman working for the Washington DC Police Department during Reconstruction. He was later remembered as "gentlemanly" and fond of good horses, especially fast ones. He married Katherine 'Kate' Bowie in Washington, D.C. in June 1867, with whom he had six children. Henry West retired from the police department in 1901 and died in 1915. He is buried in Columbian Harmony Cemetery (Defunct) in Washington D.C.


View attachment 343540




West was appointed to the Metropolitan police force on August 1, 1871. In one version of various stories relating to West and Grant, in 1872 West was patrolling on foot near 13th and M Streets in Washington DC, when he stopped the President for speeding in his horse and buggy and released him with a warning for excessive speed. The next day, West observed Grant repeating the behavior, and arrested him.

"I am very sorry. Mr. President, to have to do it, for you are the chief of the nation and I am nothing but a policeman, but duty is duty, sir, and I will have to place you under arrest."

Grant was taken to the police station and released on a $20 bond (equivalent to $430 in 2019). Grant did not contest the fine or arrest.

View attachment 343528


Another version of the story says Police Officer West caught now President U.S. Grant speeding westbound on M. Street between 11th and 12th. Grant's buggy dragged the officer who was holding the bridle some 50 feet; West didn't realize the racing buggy and horse belonged to The President, until they all came to a stop. Story goes that in the MPDC office, Officer West started to apologize and Grant told the officer; "Do your duty!" Officer West then impounded his horse and buggy and arrested Grant. However at the Precinct there was much confusion as the police realized there were no rules or regulations concerning a President arrested for speeding. As a result, Grant wasn't formally booked or charged but he was given a $20.00 fine and his horse and buggy remained impounded. Grant walked back on foot to the Executive Mansion.


View attachment 343532


Ironically, this was not the first time Grant was arrested in Washington D.C. General Grant was arrested twice previously for speeding---April 11 and July 1, 1866, when he was still the 'Commander of the Army" He was fined $5.00 each time in Precinct Court (Present day building of D.C. Court of Appeals and then Metropolitan Police Headquarters, jail, court and city hall).



References:
"D.C. police once arrested a U.S. president for speeding". WTOP. October 6, 2012. Rosenwald, Michael S.
"The police officer who arrested a president". The Washington Post.
"Which President Got a Speeding Ticket While Riding a Horse?". Ghosts of DC. March 4, 2014.
"The Thin Blue Line". U.S. Grant Cottage State Historic Site.
"The police officer who arrested a US President – could it happen again?". The Sydney Morning Herald.
Find-A-Grave: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/107912228/william-henry-west
The Metropolitan Police Department of Washington, D.C. 1861 to 2011; 150th Anniversary Edition; page 17--Officers (active/retired) advanced edition and limited product.
What a marvellous post and I think it definitely deserves a spot at the top of the home page!

It's intriguing to hear the different versions of the story and I'm not sure how you determine the correct one. But, Grant obviously took his punishment 'like a man' and didn't try to defend himself (knowing he was in he wrong). We've had quite a bit on Grant lately and his love of horses, and speed when it came to them. He definitely was willing to take risks, probably based on his abilities as a confident and competent rider. But, rules are rules as they say, and risks are called risks for a reason, which is why the rules are in place in the first place! I believe there are some other threads on this incident, so I will see if I can also think those discussions here.

Once again, great thread!
 
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John Hartwell

Major
Forum Host
Joined
Aug 27, 2011
Location
Central Massachusetts
Apparently, Grant received three previous citations for speeding before West arrested him. Less than 24 hours earlier West had flagged him down and read him the riot act:

“Mister President,” said West, “I want to tell you that you were violating the law by driving at reckless speed. Your fast driving, sir, has set the example for a lot of other gentlemen. It is endangering the lives of the people who have to cross the street in this locality. Only this evening a lady was knocked down by one of the racing teams.”

Duly reprimanded, Grant apologized and promised that it wouldn’t happen again ... (until tomorrow!)

From a couple of years ago:
 
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DBF

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 6, 2016
I’ve heard this story but never knew the “whole” story. What an interesting read. I also found it interesting they had “speed limits” for a horse & buggy - but with Washington being such a busy city - I suppose it was necessary. I remember reading a story about the then General Grant giving an order that there was to be no smoking near the ships - and he was boarding a ship when a young sailor informed him he had to extinguish his cigar. If I am remembering correctly the general no problem following his own orders - but of course I can’t remember where I read it and can’t find it just now. Maybe somebody can clarify my memory!
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
Boys, huh? This one always makes me smile. I don't know, we read of Grant, battles rage over whether he drank too much, was he a good President, how could he have ever been a slaveholder- then this. Who doesn't know someone who can't resist nudging the speedometer just because it's fun? Like I said, boys.

Agree, @Cavalry Charger . I don't know a single, addicted horse person who hasn't wiped out here or there because pushing it is a LOT of fun. There's poor Grant stuck in an office ( and nice clothing ) all day, every day. Getting the chance to get OUT again and just play must have been hard to resist. You just know he thought the fine worth it.
 
Joined
Jan 24, 2017
You just know he thought the fine worth it.
:biggrin:

Who doesn't know someone who can't resist nudging the speedometer just because it's fun? Like I said, boys.
'Letting his hair down' a bit as the saying goes. Just for the heck of it.

Once again shows us Grant's humanity. He isn't immune to temptation. But he will accept the consequences if he's caught.
 
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Joined
Jan 24, 2017
I remember reading a story about the then General Grant giving an order that there was to be no smoking near the ships - and he was boarding a ship when a young sailor informed him he had to extinguish his cigar. If I am remembering correctly the general no problem following his own orders
:laugh: The stories keep getting better.

I think the takeaway for me from these stories is Grant's lack of resistance to any kind of defense. He knows he's breaking the rules, rules he even set himself, and in testing them is found at fault. I'm sure he thought well of that young sailor who fulfilled his duty to the letter.

I just have one question about the need to extinguish his cigar ... was the no smoking order due to the possibility/danger of explosions?
 

Rebforever

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Oct 26, 2012
:laugh: The stories keep getting better.

I think the takeaway for me from these stories is Grant's lack of resistance to any kind of defense. He knows he's breaking the rules, rules he even set himself, and in testing them is found at fault. I'm sure he thought well of that young sailor who fulfilled his duty to the letter.

I just have one question about the need to extinguish his cigar ... was the no smoking order due to the possibility/danger of explosions?
at 30 miles and hour on a buggy would certainly spark his cigar and one spark on a pistol in his pocker could kill him. 😳
 
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