One of my mantras: if something seems too good (or bad) to be true, it probably isn’t.
Misinformation is rampant, sometimes innocent (because a quote sounds so good!) and sometimes intentional (unpaid and professional trolls).
That’s why I urge people to stop for a moment before sharing anything that has tripped an emotional wire.
When I saw a claim that President Ulysses S. Grant had predicted that the next civil war would be “between patriotism and intelligence on one side, and superstition, ambition, and ignorance on the other” … well … I rolled my eyes and said to the Internet, “show me.”
Darn if he didn’t say almost that on 29 September 1875!
President Grant was in Des Moines, Iowa, for the Annual Reunion of the Army of the Tennessee (River). The unit had been under the command of the former Maj. Gen. Grant during the Civil War. Also present: Gen. William T. Sherman and former president of the Confederate States of America Jefferson Davis (talk about odd bedfellows).
The Alexandria Gazette (30 September 1875) and the New York Times (01 October 1875) report the speech with slightly different text. I am using the language of the Gazette but the punctuation of the NYT (periods, not semi-colons).
If we are to have another contest in the near future of our national existence, I predict that the dividing line will not be Mason’s and Dixon’s, but between patriotism and intelligence on the one side, and superstition, ambition, and ignorance on the other…
Let us all labor … for the security of free thought, free speech, and free press, pure morals, unfettered religious sentiments, and of equal rights and privileges for all men, irrespective of nationality, color, or religion. Resolve that neither State nor nation shall support institutions save those where every child in the land may get a common school education, unmixed with atheistic, pagan and sectarian teachings [NYT, dogmas]. Leave the matter of religion to the family altar and keep the Church and State forever separate. With these safeguards, I believe the battles which created the Army of the Tennessee will not have been fought in vain (emphasis added).
Note: Snopes uses the NYT language but with a broken source link.
Almost 100 years after the 1st amendment (1791), the 18th president felt it important to emphasized keeping church and state separate. Grant issued his warning in 1875, perhaps, because the National Reform Association (NRA) came to being in 1863. ()
In order to rectify what it called the “religious defect” in the U.S. Constitution, the NRA petitioned Congress in 1864 to amend the preamble of the Constitution to read, “We, people of the United States, humbly acknowledging Almighty God as the source of all authority and power in civil government, the Lord Jesus Christ as the Ruler among the nations […], do ordain and establish this Constitution of the United States of America.”
The importance of that separation (the U.S. is not a Christian nation) is a philosophy that too many 21st century leaders have abandoned. Look no further than November election campaigns and taxpayer vouchers for non-public schools. Today we also have the New Apostolic Reformation to carry forth NRA philosophy.
In his first inaugural address in 1896, Grant had also suggested that “the proper treatment of the original occupants of this land—the Indians—[is] one deserving of careful study. I will favor any course toward them which tends to their civilization and ultimate citizenship.”
Sounds like a Democrat today, yes? Certainly not my preconception of how a general might approach civil rights.
Check before you share! There’s a reason for this Abraham Lincoln meme!
Google search tips:
- Constrain sources to government and education sites [Add to your search term(s) site:gov OR site:edu]
- Use Google Reverse Image search to identify where that uncredited photo originated; credit creators!
Sites that can help:
- Library resources like this one from St. Louis
- Quote Investigator
Avoid the mass-produced quotation sites; very unlikely they have been fact-checked.
[I had forgotten Grant advocated for the Fifteenth Amendment. I am from the Deep South and that probably wasn’t taught in my American history classes! He was the seventh general to be elected president.]