Belknap Scandal

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BELKNAP SCANDAL, one of the series of scandals that marked President Ulysses S. Grant's second administration. Carrie Tomlinson Belknap, second wife of Secretary of War William W. Belknap, secured a lucrative post tradership at Fort Sill for John S. Evans. Mrs. Belknap reportedly received $6,000 per year for this service. After her death in 1870 it was alleged that the money was paid directly to Secretary Belknap. A subsequent congressional investigation revealed that Secretary Belknap continued to receive payments from Evans even after Mrs. Belknap's death. On 2 March 1876 the House of Representatives voted unanimously to impeach the secretary. Belknap resigned the same day, and Grant, a personal friend of the Belknap family, immediately accepted his resignation. Grant's quick acceptance of the resignation proved critical in Belknap's subsequent trial. The impeachment trial, held in April and May, resulted in acquittal; twenty-two of the twenty-five members voting for acquittal declared that the Senate had no jurisdiction over a resigned officer.

The Belknap scandal came at a particularly inopportune moment for the Grant administration. In 1874 the Democrats had won control of the House of Representatives and placed the administration under close scrutiny through a series of congressional investigations, including the Crédit Mobilier affair and the Whiskey Ring. Grant himself had not profited from any of the scandals that took place during his administration, but the resulting outcry placed the end of his second term under a cloud of corruption from which he would never fully emerge.


McFeely, William S. Grant: A Biography. Newtown, Conn.: American Political Biography Press, 1996. The original edition was published in 1981.

Simpson, Brooks D. The Reconstruction Presidents. Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1998.


W. B.Hesseltine

See alsoCrédit Mobilier of America ; Political Scandals .