In his third annual message to the nation, Ulysses S. Grant stated the obvious: "The condition of the Southern States is, unhappily, not such as all true patriotic citizens would like to see." Brutal attacks and political murders throughout the South prompted Grant to invoke the new Enforcement Act, ordering in troops and suspending the writ of habeas corpus.
When fire swept through Chicago during 1871, Grant immediately telegraphed to General Philip H. Sheridan to "Render all the aid you can." When Illinois’ governor charged federal interference, Grant replied: "The only thing thought of was how to benefit a people struck by a calamity greater than had ever befallen a community, of the same number, before in this country."
Grant’s July Fourth proclamation announced British ratification of the Treaty of Washington. Elsewhere, the civil war in Cuba furnished a constant irritant. An exasperated Grant warned that each new atrocity strengthened American public opinion against Spain.
Telling a friend "It will be a happy day for me when I am out of political life," Grant nevertheless cast a keen eye over the political landscape, looking toward the 1872 election. In another letter, never sent, he surveyed opposition within his own party, deftly characterized Horace Greeley as "a genius without common sense," and saved his worst for Senator Charles Sumner, a man he called "unreasonable, cowardly, slanderous, unblushing false." Despite his lack of zeal for presidential duties—he confessed: "I believe I am lazy and dont get credit for it"—Grant was not about to yield power to such scorned enemies.