— Ulysses S. Grant 18th President of the United States 1822 - 1885
Context: Looking back over the whole policy of reconstruction, it seems to me that the wisest thing would have been to have continued for some time the military rule. Sensible Southern men see now that there was no government so frugal, so just, and fair as what they had under our generals. That would have enabled the Southern people to pull themselves together and repair material losses. As to depriving them, even for a time, of suffrage, that was our right as a conqueror, and it was a mild penalty for the stupendous crime of treason. Military rule would have been just to all, to the negro who wanted freedom, the white man who wanted protection, the northern man who wanted Union. As state after state showed a willingness to come into the Union, not on their own terms but upon ours, I would have admitted them. This would have made universal suffrage unnecessary, and I think a mistake was made about suffrage. It was unjust to the negro to throw upon him the responsibilities of citizenship, and expect him to be on even terms with his white neighbor. It was unjust to the north. In giving the south negro suffrage, we have given the old slave-holders forty votes in the electoral college. They keep those votes, but disfranchise the negroes. That is one of the gravest mistakes in the policy of reconstruction. It looks like a political triumph for the south, but it is not. The southern people have nothing to dread more than the political triumph of the men who led them into secession. That triumph was fatal to them in 1860. It would be no less now. The trouble about military rule in the south was that our people did not like it. It was not in accordance with our institutions. I am clear now that it would have been better for the north to have postponed suffrage, reconstruction, state governments, for ten years, and held the south in a territorial condition. It was due to the north that the men who had made war upon us should be powerless in a political sense forever. It would have avoided the scandals of the state governments, saved money, and enabled the northern merchants, farmers, and laboring men to reorganize society in the south. But we made our scheme, and must do what we can with it. Suffrage once given can never be taken away, and all that remains for us now is to make good that gift by protecting those who have received it.
In China, p. 362.