Last month, I told you all about the Whiskey Ring, a tax evasion scandal that plagued Ulysses S. Grant’s presidency in the 1870’s. If you missed the post, you can read it here. So let's continue the story!
|Political Cartoon on the Whiskey Ring,|
drawn by Thomas Nast
|Orville E. Babcock|
By early 1876, Babcock was put on trial for his involvement in the scandal. But this is where things grow truly interesting. President Grant felt the trial was as much an attack against him as it was against his secretary, and Grant went to great lengths to help his friend. First, just ten days before Babcock’s trial began, the President secretly created a “no deal” policy, stating that prosecutors could not give convicted criminals immunity in exchange for their testimony. Without that incentive, no one wanted to testify against Babcock. Also, it appeared that the jury was stacked with those who would vote to acquit Babcock. But the greatest help to Babcock’s case came when the President of the United States chose to testify on his friend’s behalf—something no President had ever done before, nor since.
|Political Cartoon on the Whiskey Ring, drawn by Thomas Nast|
|President Ulysses S. Grant|
The final help to Babcock’s case came when the judge instructed the jury before they went into deliberations. The jury was told to place more weight on the character witnesses for the defendant than on the evidence against him. Since the President of the United States had been one of those character witnesses, it took the jury only two hours to deliver their verdict. Not guilty.
While he was acquitted in the Whiskey Ring case, Babcock was forced to resign his position as Secretary by the rest of the President’s cabinet. Just ten days later, he was indicted for his suspected involvement in another scandal of the Grant administration. Once again, he was acquitted in the second case, and not surprisingly, the President took care of his friend. Babcock was appointed to the position of Chief Inspector of Lighthouses by President Grant, a position which he held until his death a handful of years later. Death by drowning in the line of duty.
So what do you think? Last month, many of you said you hadn't heard of the Whiskey Ring scandal, although most who commented were aware that President Grant's administration was wracked by scandals. Does this outcome surprise you? Why, or why not?
Jennifer Uhlarik discovered the western genre as a pre-teen, when she swiped the only “horse” book she found on her older brother’s bookshelf. A new love was born. Across the next ten years, she devoured Louis L’Amour westerns and fell in love with the genre. In college at the University of Tampa, she began penning her own story of the Old West. Armed with a B.A. in writing, she has won five writing competitions and made the top 10 and top 3 in two other competitions. In addition to writing, she has held jobs as a private business owner, a schoolteacher, a marketing director, and her favorite—a full-time homemaker. Jennifer is active in American Christian Fiction Writers and lifetime member of the Florida Writers Association. She lives near Tampa, Florida, with her husband, teenaged son, and four fur children.