Ulysses S. Grant embarked on a two-year world tour after his second term in office ended in 1877. Rest and relaxation was on his mind. After all, his reputation and presidency was damaged by corruption within his administration and party. He also hoped, if people in other countries showed their admiration for him, Americans would overlook the scandals and he could win the Republican nomination in 1880.
On May 17, 1877, Grant and his family left for England. All across Western Europe, from Belgium to Switzerland, Germany to Denmark, the Grants were treated like royalty. Perhaps the most incredible display of affection came in Newcastle, England, which the Grants visited on September 22, 1877. An estimated 80- to 100,000 people, many of them workers, turned out to honor Grant with a parade and hear him speak. They saw him not just as a former president, but as a military hero who saved the U.S.
U.S. Reporter John Russell Young from the New York Herald traveled with the Grants, and sent dispatches home to eager readers in New York. Other papers picked up the reports. All over America, people began to forget Grant’s scandals and remember his heroism. The world tour was doing its job.
After visiting Europe, Grants kept moving. In Egypt, they visited Alexandria and Cairo, and steamed up the Nile. They toured Jerusalem and saw the Western world’s holiest sites. Then they moved on, to Greece and Rome, Russia, Austria, and Germany. After briefly returning to Britain, the Grants set out for Asia. They toured Burma, Singapore, and Vietnam. In Siam, the Grants met King Chulalongkorn, who at 25 had already been king for 10 years.
By the time the Grants returned to America, on December 16, 1879, the former president’s image had improved. When he disembarked at San Francisco, with the St. Bernard, named Ponto, he’d acquired in Switzerland, he was met by an enormous crowd. But as Grant continued his tour through the cities and towns of America, support for him diminished. The world tour had been thrilling, but it would not be enough to help Grant regain the presidency. At the Republican convention of 1880, James A. Garfield was the winner of the party’s nomination.