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Grant Defeats the KKK

July 18, 2019

The 13th Amendment, ratified in 1865, freed the slaves.  Around the same time the Ku Klux Klan was founded.  By 1867 the Klan had evolved from a fraternity of disgruntled white supremacists into a terrorist organization.  The 14th Amendment, ratified in 1868, made the former slaves citizens.  The 15th Amendment, ratified in 1870, gave them the right to vote.  In 1871 the Klan unleashed a reign of terror upon the former slaves.

The President’s Cabinet advised against decisive action, but Grant did not think this was a time for political caution.  He had already asked Congress for legislation that would give him authority to intervene, and Congress had obliged.  He could not shrink from using this new enforcement power in the face of such atrocities as were being reported.  In just two South Carolina counties the total number of citizens who had been victims of violence exceeded two hundred.  Two had even been murdered.

On October 12, 1871 Grant ordered all perpetrators “to retire peacefully to their homes within five days.”  When the five days were up, and Grant observed that the Klan had not dispersed, he suspended the writ of habeas corpus.  Two days later, the Federal government made over one hundred arrests in South Carolina.

There had been Klan disturbances in other states as well, but Grant’s no nonsense approach prevailed.  The Klan was crushed.

However, some of Grant’s former supporters turned against him.  They even formed a new political party and nominated a very famous person to run against Grant in 1872.


One Comment
  1. U.S. Grant had more spine than most!

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