Ulysses S. Grant was a great Civil War general. But later, as President, he successfully waged a big economic and political battle, largely forgotten today, that was crucial to helping the U.S. become the greatest economic colossus in history.
This segment of What’s Ahead lays out why that fight has enormous relevance now, as the Federal Reserve, the White House and Congress play with fire regarding future inflation and economic stagnation.
The excess money printing that helped finance the Civil War led to a post-war bubble. When it burst, Congress overwhelmingly passed what was dubbed the “Inflation Bill,” which would have massively increased the money supply.
Grant was under intense pressure to sign it. “I was never so pressed in my life to do anything as to sign that bill, never.”
He vetoed it, and his powerful message prevented an override. Grant then ruled out future inflation by putting the U.S. firmly on the road to a return to the gold standard.
Said Grant’s foremost biographer, Pulitzer Prize-winning author Ron Chernow, “In this way, Grant’s decision … set the stage for America’s emergence as the world’s supreme industrial power.”
Grant prevented the U.S. from going the inflationary route of so many other nations.
Steve Forbes is Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of Forbes Media. Steve’s newest project is the podcast “What’s Ahead,” where he engages the world’s top newsmakers,
Steve Forbes is Chairman and Editor-in-Chief of Forbes Media. Steve’s newest project is the podcast “What’s Ahead,” where he engages the world’s top newsmakers, politicians and pioneers in business and economics in honest conversations meant to challenge traditional conventions as well as featuring Steve’s signature views on the intersection of society, economic and policy. Steve helped create the recently released and highly acclaimed public television documentary, In Money We Trust?, which was produced under the auspices of Maryland Public television. The film was inspired by the book he co-authored, Money: How the Destruction of the Dollar Threatens the Global Economy – and What We Can Do About It. Steve’s latest book is Reviving America: How Repealing Obamacare, Replacing the Tax Code and Reforming The Fed will Restore Hope and Prosperity co-authored by Elizabeth Ames (McGraw-Hill Professional). Steve writes editorials for each issue of Forbes under the heading of “Fact and Comment.” A widely respected economic prognosticator, he is the only writer to have won the highly prestigious Crystal Owl Award four times. The prize was formerly given by U.S. Steel Corporation to the financial journalist whose economic forecasts for the coming year proved most accurate. In both 1996 and 2000, Steve campaigned vigorously for the Republican nomination for the Presidency. Key to his platform were a flat tax, medical savings accounts, a new Social Security system for working Americans, parental choice of schools for their children, term limits and a strong national defense. Steve continues to energetically promote this agenda.