Skip to main content
Go to accessibility notice


    Grant writes that his wife "could not see how it was possible that any body ever justified" slavery

    Ulysses S. Grant Autograph Letter Signed. Two and one-quarter bifolium pages, 5" x 8", Galena, Illinois, September 11, 1880. Grant writes a very endearing and sweet letter to seven-year-old Garibaldi Ross regarding his wife's view of slavery. (Julie Dent Grant grew up in a slave-holding family.) Aged toned (irregularly toned around the edges) with smoothed folds. The central vertical fold has been reinforced, though there is some separation. Some mounting remnants are visible. Grant's text and signature are very bold and clear. The letter reads in full:

    "My Dear Young Friend: In looking over my letters, preparatory to leaving this place for the winter, I find one from you father, Dr. Ross, written November 10, 1879, which I know I have not answered because I find the envelope in which I sent this already addressed by him. You must excuse my seeming neglect because I would not neglect even a little boy only seven years old intentionally. Now give my kindest regards to your father, and say that although I had no time to read his book at the time he presented it, yet Mrs. Grant had, and did read it, and when she got through, although she had been raised in a slave state, and always owned slaves - as her father did - while slavery existed in our country, she said she could not see how it was possible that any body ever justified such an institution. Hoping that you may grow to be a strong, healthy man, and justify the fondest expectations of your parents in your future career. I am, Very Truly Yours [signed] U. S. Grant."

    Julia Dent Grant (1826-1902) was born at her family's Missouri plantation, White Haven. Her father, Frederick Dent, was a merchant and slaveholder, owning around thirty slaves. Shortly after their wedding, Ulysses and Julia moved to the plantation, living there from 1854 until 1859. During that time, Grant used his father-in-law's slaves and even purchased his own slave, which he freed in 1859 when he and Julie moved away from the plantation to Galena, Illinois.

    Very few letters exist from Grant reflecting on his own views of slavery. In one letter he wrote in 1863 to Congressman Elihu Washburn, Grant states that he "never was an Abolitionist, [n]ot even what could be called anti slavery" (The Papers of Ulysses S. Grant: July 7-December 31, 1863, Volume 9, ed. John Y. Simon, [SIU Press, 1967], 218). This current letter is an important and rare historical letter in which Grant, using his wife's views, gives a rare denunciation of slavery.

    Garibaldi Ross was the son of Dr. Alexander M. Ross, a Canadian naturalist and physician with strong abolitionist views. Ross worked to free slaves through the Underground Railroad, even making trips himself to the South for that purpose. Ross authored Recollections and Experiences of an Abolitionist from 1855 to 1865 (published in 1876), which is likely the book mentioned in this letter which Grant "had no time to read."

    Auction Info

    Auction Dates
    December, 2014
    12th Friday
    Bids + Registered Phone Bidders: 2
    Lot Tracking Activity: N/A
    Page Views: 968

    Buyer's Premium per Lot:
    25% on the first $100,000 (minimum $14), plus 20% of any amount between $100,000 and $1,000,000, plus 12% of any amount over $1,000,000 per lot.

    Sold on Dec 12, 2014 for: Sign-in or Join (free & quick)
    Track Item

    Heritage membership

    Join Now - It's Free

    1. Past Auction Values (prices, photos, full descriptions, etc.)
    2. Bid online
    3. Free Collector newsletter
    4. Want List with instant e-mail notifications
    5. Reduced auction commissions when you resell your
    Consign now
    • Cash Advances
    • More Bidders
    • Trusted Experts
    • Over 200,000 Satisfied Consignors Since 1976
    Consign to the 2021 October 20 Manuscripts Signature Auction.

    Learn about consigning with us

    The pre and post sales experience was wonderful and flawless. Heritage has the best in-house operation I have ever seen and their people are not only professional but fun to work with, especially Steve C.

    As for Heritage's online system… Yes the interface is more complex than what we are used to with SAN but what is behind that interface is amazing for sellers and buyers alike. It is real time and for a real serious auction buyer there is nothing better in the auction industry, bar none.
    Ron Cipolla,
    View More Testimonials receives more traffic than any other auction house website. (Source:

    Video tutorial

    Getting the most out of search