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Citizen of a Wider Commonwealth

Citizen of a Wider Commonwealth

Ulysses S. Grant's Postpresidential Diplomacy

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Edwina S. Campbell


E-book (Other formats: Hardcover)
38 illustrations

World of Ulysses S. Grant


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About the Book

In 1877 former president Ulysses S. Grant, along with his family and friends, embarked on a two-year world tour that took him from Liverpool to Yokohama with stops throughout Europe and Asia. Biographies of Grant deal very briefly, if at all, with this tour and generally treat it as a pleasure trip filled with sightseeing, shopping, wining, and dining. Far from an extended vacation, however, Grant’s travels in fact constituted a diplomatic mission sanctioned by the U.S. government. In this revealing volume, Edwina S. Campbell chronicles Grant’s journey—the first diplomatic mission ever undertaken by a former U.S. president—and demonstrates how it marked a decided turning point in the role of the United States in world affairs.
Traveling commercially and on U.S. Navy warships, Grant visited ports of call throughout the British Empire, Europe, and Asia, including Britain, France, Egypt, the Ottoman Empire, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands, Germany, Scandinavia, Russia, Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar, Ireland, India, Singapore, Hong Kong, China, and Japan. Along the way, he met with monarchs, ministers, and average citizens, creating the model for the summitry and public diplomacy practiced by future American presidents and articulating concepts of national self-determination, international organization, and the peaceful settlement of international disputes decades before Elihu Root’s advocacy of binding international arbitration and Woodrow Wilson’s proposal for the League of Nations.
Campbell reveals Grant to be a skillful envoy who brought to his travels the deep interest in foreign policy issues he had shown during his administration. Grant confirmed the United States’ commitment to Anglo-American cooperation, demonstrated America’s interest in the territorial integrity of China, affirmed American faith in universal (male) suffrage as the basis for governmental legitimacy, and asserted the importance of an international order based on equality and justice for all states and their citizens. Grant’s efforts shaped not only John Hay’s Open Door policy in 1899–1900 but also the broader American approach to twentieth-century international relations. Throughout the trip, Julia Grant proved essential to the success of her husband’s mission, and Campbell tells how the couple impressed people around the world with an enduring image of an American president and first lady.
By illuminating the significance of Grant’s often overlooked postpresidential travels, Citizen of a Wider Commonwealth establishes the eighteenth president as a key diplomat whose work strongly influenced the direction of future U.S. foreign policy and contributes substantially to the study of American international relations. 


Edwina S. Campbell is a former U.S. Foreign Service officer who worked on several presidential visits and summit meetings during her years with the Department of State. After leaving the diplomatic service, she taught American foreign policy at the University of Virginia, was a professor of grand strategy at National Defense University, and retired in 2014 as a professor of national security studies at Air University. Since 1985 she has been a frequent practitioner of public diplomacy for the U.S. Information Agency and the Department of State. Campbell’s numerous publications include Germany’s Past and Europe’s Future: The Challenges of West German Foreign Policy and The Relevance of American Power: The Anglo-American Past and the Euro-Atlantic Future


“Edwina S. Campbell’s Citizen of a Wider Commonwealth is part of a series on the general and president by the Southern Illinois University Press, and they picked a great subject for this volume: Grant’s world tour from 1877-1879 introduced the new, post-Civil War America to much of the world and, in turn, much of the world to America. Campbell, a former U.S. Foreign Service officer, was, because of her background in the practice and study of diplomacy, uniquely qualified to write [about this topic]. This is one of the most fascinating Civil War books of the last few years, a fitting tribute to a man who ‘practiced diplomacy as he had once waged war, without hubris or fear, but with unwavering confidence in himself and in his fellow citizen’s ability to meet whatever challenges came their way.’—Allen Barra in America’s Civil War

“Bringing to her subject impeccable credentials and keen insight as a former diplomat and as a professional historian, Edwina Campbell finally sets the record straight on the importance and meaning of Ulysses S. Grant’s 1877–79 world tour. In her lucid and fast-paced book Campbell makes clear that as his country’s ‘ambassador at large’ Grant pioneered the practice of public diplomacy. He was the first—and far from the last—former U.S. president to engage with people of other countries and cultures, from common people to businessmen to national leaders. This volume both adds to the growing revisionist scholarship on Grant and confirms that those who dismiss the contributions and legacy of the eighteenth president do so at their own peril.”—John David Smith, author of Lincoln and the U.S. Colored Troops

“Campbell examines the world tour taken by former president Ulysses S. Grant in the context of changes that occurred both globally and within the United States rather than as a sunset experience for a diminished past president somewhat down on his luck. Grant and his contemporaries realized the Civil War and the political, economic, and social changes that paralleled and followed it had empowered the United States and its place in the world. They sensed, too, that the world around them was changing. Grant’s trip had elements of a vacation, but Campbell convincingly shows it was also a strategic assessment undertaken by one of a handful of Americans who had the necessary experience and perspective. This is an important book, not only for scholars of Grant but also for students of U.S. foreign policy, the latter part of the nineteenth century, and the evolution of the role of presidents in and out of office.”—Kenneth B. Moss

Citizen of a Wider Commonwealth is the untold story of Grant’s postpresidential ‘world tour,’ a diplomatic mission that sought to position the United States for the power and influence it would wield in the twentieth century. Must reading for anyone interested in the forces shaping American foreign policy as the continental power took its place on the world stage.”—Charlotte Ku, Texas A&M University School of Law

"Citizen of Wider Commonwealth--Ulysses S. Grant's Postpresidential Diplomacy offers a wealth of material to inform scholars of a moment in American history that has long been ignored. Ms. Campbell's book awakens interest in Grant as an international diplomat who was reticent of speech but vocal in his actions and his perceptions that echo today. Her book bears significant literary history and historic value as it presents details of that effort previously not brought to light."--James Middleton