After all, in his time Grant had been the master of the target executive orders , issuing 217 — a record. Early presidents used them little - Jefferson, Madison, and Monroe each released one - and even Lincoln only hit 48. Yet, in many ways, Lincoln was Grant's role model when it comes to executive overtaking.
Lincoln notoriously suspended the habeas corpus ordinance, declared martial law, seized private property and endowed himself with special powers of war expressly prohibited by the Constitution . He justifies this additional authority by the urgency of the war and the singular objective of preserving the Union.
When Grant entered the presidency in 1869, he believed Lincoln's justification still carried weight. The nation was out of the war but not quite at peace.
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The South, though defeated, was not prepared for the new reality. Citizens at heart shattered, their homes and communities torn apart by war, their families destroyed and their economy shattered, faced an uncertain future.
It was a dangerous transition, as Grant acknowledged in his inaugural speech: "The country barely emerged from a great rebellion, many questions will be submitted to it for resolution in the next four years, which previous administrations have never had to deal with. When meeting them, it is desirable that they are approached calmly, without prejudice, hatred or section pride, remembering that the greatest good for the greatest number is the goal to be.reach. "
These words scattered in the wind to little effect. In reality, the South was becoming so inhospitable to blacks that Grant embarked on an unfortunate plan to annex the Caribbean nation of Santo Domingo (now) the Dominican Republic) to make them an alternative home. Congress condemned this plan whilethe situation in parts of the south was becoming more and more dramatic. During Grant's first years in office, the Ku Klux Klan, an organization made up of the most embittered remnants of the Confederacy, emboldened in its campaign of terror against blacks, torching their schools and churches and beating and lynching those who were unlucky to cross their path. .
A man at ease with military solutions, Grant sought the power to send the army after the KKK. "A situation now exists in some of the states of the Union, making life and property precarious, as well as transporting mail and collecting income dangerous," he told Congress, adding that the power to " correct these evils "was beyond the capacity of states.
In April 1871, Congress passed " legislation to enforce the provisions of the Fourteenth Amendment "known under the name of the Ku Klux Klan Act. Grant l 'instantly signed into law.
This bill gave the federal government the power to intervene, and Grant sent troops to disperse the Klan.
Grant decision send federal troops in the South struck a chord with Southerners who denounced it as an abuse of power and a destruction of state rights.
That didn 't stop Grant.
The problem was that once the Federal troops were used for a disruption, it was easy to keep using them. The KKK was not the only obstruction force. Across the South,white militias and rifle clubs were forming, threatening not only blacks but supporting white Republican officials and election security. For the remainder of Grant's tenure, there would be one crisis after another requiring federal troops.
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In the end, Grant was exhausted from efforts to contain the violence and enforce the rule of law in the South. The nation was tired of Reconstruction, and public sentiment was growing in favor of disconnecting Federal troops.
During the contested election of 1876, Grant quietly helped negotiate a deal: accepting Republican Rutherford B. Hayes as president in exchange for thewithdrawal of federal troops from the South. Democrats promised that black rights would be protected after the troops left. This, of course, was not to be.
The rapid troop withdrawal, one of Hayes 'first acts in pouvoir, paved the way for nearly a century of Jim Crow. While Grant never shied away from claiming executive power during his tenure, it ultimately did not solve the racial crisis and may have only made the situation worse.
Presidents have struggled with the extent of executive power throughout our history, and many have discovered, as Grant did, that executive orders allow them to rule more cleanly, without messy wrangling with Congress.
One of the most dramatic examples of this was the FDR decree on the internment of Japanese Americans after Pearl Harbor, an acti on this was undisputed at the time but has since been declared one of the most shameful (and unconstitutional) orders from a White House.
As I was finishing work on my book, " To save the Republice: Ulysses S. Grant, The Fragile Union and the Crisis of 1876 , "I witnessed and reported on the January 6 violence on Capitol Hill.
I was drawn to the clear parallels between Grant's time and ours. When Joe Biden took office, I noted his dependence on executive orders in a climate where Congress wasn't in the mood to be cooperative.
From his first moments as president, Biden began issuing a cascade of executive orders - 54 by August 2021 Many of them were aimed at undoing Trump's actions during his tenure, including joining the Paris climate accord, revoking the permit for the Keystone XL pipeline, stopping construction of the wall, repealing the ban on transgender people in the military, preserving DACA protections, and revoking
Biden was also facing a crisis as qThe COVID pandemic and the delta variant continued to spread. With vaccine availability resolved, Biden quickly discovered that the real challenge was not access to vaccinations but resistance.
The bias over vaccinations and masks set up a potential constitutional showdown as Biden explored the extent of his power.
At first, Biden ordered vaccines or weekly tests for military and federal employees and mask warrants for federal properties and transportation systems. The question was, how far could he go further?
During the summer of 2021, as the number of vaccinations languished and hospital emergency rooms and intensive care units reached capacity in cities across the country, the question Biden's executive authority has become more urgent. Did he have the power to declare a general emergency thatwould allow it to assume the authority of states to establish their own rules of compliance?
On September 9, the president made an announcement that went as far as the full vaccine term line. He took an unexpected route, ordering the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) - a Nixon-era workplace regulatory agency - to require companies with 100 or more employees to require that workers are vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID tests. A severe fine of $ 14,000 per violation would be imposed for non-compliance. In addition, he announced that all federal employees and contractors must now be vaccinated, with no possibility of testing as an alternative. Healthcare workers who treat Medicare or Medicaid patients in hospitals or other facilities should be immunized.
Necessity or going beyond? There was an immediate outcry from many Tories affaffirming that these warrants were unconstitutional. Private companies might have the right to establish vaccination warrants, but did the federal government have the right to force them? Inevitably, the case would be challenged in court. But Biden wasn't waiting to test his powers.
He had a direct message for unvaccinated Americans: "We have been patient, but our patience is running out… Your refusal has cost us all. So, please, do the right thing. "
Thinking about what Grant would do in this situation, given his experience with the effects of strong federal action in the states, one would guess that he would support strong action executive, even though it was constitutionally murky.
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Grant, himussi, had felt the sting of relentless resistance to the goals of Reconstruction, and perhaps calculated that the resistance was in the minority and could be foiled. It didn't work that way.
The resistances might have been in the minor, but they had the tacit support of many others in a nation that was (as now) almost equally
Grant was a thoughtful man, able to review his actions with a degree of honesty and humility unusual for general managers.
"Mistakes were made " he said when he left office, and he could have provided a long list. He never said he regretted his muscular use of federal power to contain violence in the South. But what Grant might tell Biden, based on bitter experience, is that he should be careful about the use of executive power.
A confExcessive prominence in presidential orders reflects a lack of confidence in equal branches of government. Biden's argument that a relatively small minority thwarts the will of the people is an argument that has been made repeatedly in our history with little constitutional effect.
Ultimately, the nation cannot achieve by force or decree what the hearts of the citizens reject. The executive action, while allowing for the moment, disappears in the blink of an eye with the next election.
Better to do the hard work of governing for the future, even if success is beyond the CEO's horizon.
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Bret Baier is the author of four presidential biographies. His latest, " Sauvetage the Republic: Ulysses S. Grant, the Fragile Union, and the Crisis of 1876 , "will be released on October 12, 2021.