President Grant’s papers moving – to Mississippi

January 28, 2009

It’s either a sign of how old wounds have healed, or it’s another step in the cryptic and slow, cold war in which the South works to overcome the victory of the Union in the Civil War.

Ulysses S Grant as a Lt. General, Library of Congress image

Ulysses S Grant as a Lt. General; photo by Alexander Gardner, Library of Congress image

Associated Press reports (via Federal News Radio) the papers of President Ulysses S Grant will move from the University of Southern Illinois at Carbondale,  to Mississippi State University, in Starkville, Mississippi.

The fact that a collection about a Union hero who helped topple the Confederacy has wound up in Dixie is not lost on [John Marszalek, a Civil War scholar and Mississippi State history professor emeritus who’s now shepherding the collection].

“There’s an irony in it,” he said with a laugh. “People recognize this for its scholarly worth, and I think what has happened over time is that people have come to realize that the Civil War is over and we’re a united nation again.”

Still, Grant’s return to the South doesn’t thrill Cecil Fayard Jr., the Mississippi-based leader of the Sons of Confederate Veterans.

“U.S. Grant is not beloved in the state of Mississippi. Southern folks remember well his brutal and bloody tactics of war, and the South will never forget the siege of Vicksburg,” he said.

The Ulysses S. Grant Association, which owns the papers, decided to move them at the request of Marzsalek, who was named conservator after the death of John Y. Simon, the historian who had curated the collection during the publication of more than 30 volumes of Grants papers, beginning in 1962.  Simon lost his professorship at SIU last year, and died in July 2008.

The modern concept of a presidential library did not exist until 1939.  The first such library was the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library in Hyde Par, New York, established with papers donated in 1939.  There are now official libraries, parts of the U.S. National Archives system, for Herbert Hoover (who preceded FDR) in West Branch, Iowa, Harry Truman, in Independence, Missouri, Dwight Eisenhower, in Abilene, Kansas, John Kennedy, at Harvard University near Boston, Lyndon Johnson at the University of Texas, Austin, Richard Nixon at Yorba Linda, California, Gerald Ford library at Ann Arbor and museum (still under construction) in Grand Rapids, Michigan, Jimmy Carter in Atlanta, Ronald Reagan at Simi Valley, California, George H. W. Bush at Texas A&M University, College Station, Texas, and Bill Clinton in Little Rock.  George W. Bush is working to establish a library and institute at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, the library an extension of the National Archives, and the institute modeled roughly after the Herbert Hoover Institution affiliated with Stanford University in Palo Alto, California.

George Washington and Abraham Lincoln are honored with institutions, too.  Washington’s home at Mount Vernon, Virginia, is held by the Ladies of Mount Vernon Association, which originally saved the mansion; the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum is in Springfield, Illinois.  Neither of those institutions has much formal tie to the federal library system.

Because of their places in history, even at the risk of enlarging the institutionalness and management problems of these libraries, I would like to see libraries established for Theodore Roosevelt, perhaps in South Dakota; for Woodrow Wilson; For Andrew Jackson, probably near his home in Tennessee; and for John Adams and/or John Quincy Adams, outside of Boston.  These institutions could bolster the spread of knowledge and preservation of history of our freedoms and liberties; if we were rich, it would be useful and productive to put libraries in Ohio — for William Howard Taft, or for Taft and Garfield and Buchanan — and far upstate New York for Millard Fillmore, perhaps at the University of Buffalo.  Libraries honoring James Madison and James Monroe could be useful, too, but would put a great concentration of such institutions close to Charlottesville, Virginia.


Under the fold:  Quotations from U. S. Grant, from the Grant papers collection.

Read the rest of this entry »

%d bloggers like this: