A plausible phone conversation between Ulysses S. Grant and Samuel “Mark Twain” Clemens in 1885.
“Hello operator get me Sam Clemens pronto in Hartford Connecticut, this is Sam Grant calling.”
“Hello, Sam Clemens here, Mister President, it’s a pleasure to hear from you. How’s things in New York?’
“I will get to the point, things are dire; I have tongue squamous cell carcinoma, and it is highly aggressive, and in an advanced stage. I have little time to waste for my life is soon coming to an end. Compounding my life are some unfortunate circumstances surrounding my lost finances due to the bankruptcy of Grant and Ward (Grant & Ward Investments).
Sam, I’m broke and about to lose everything to creditors. I have one last battle to fight; it is the writing and the selling of my memoirs. I am doing this to save my family from embarrassment and financial ruin. I need your help.
“Mr. President, you know as a longtime friend, I am only too happy to help you. What is it you need?”
“I need your opinion. I am finishing up my memoirs and plan to sell them to a publisher for $25,000.
Grant is Interrupted by Clemens, “Hold your horses, don’t sign anything, you can make a better business deal with me.
“Sam, I have always known you to be honest and straightforward. You aren’t making humor out this are you?” queried Grant.
“Mr. President, these are the times that try men’s souls, hear me out.” You deserve fairness, truthfulness, and frankness regarding the publication of your memoirs. I will see you in the morning with a straight forward contract to sign that will benefit your family beyond your measure,” declared Clemens.
“Sam Clemens, you know, that I never wanted to write these memoirs, although it has come to a place where my family needs the financial support. It will be the last battle I fight. See you in the morning,” affirmed Grant.
The Last Photograph of Grant, taken just four days before his death.
This is a story of friendship. Over a period of just fifteen months, from Grant’s bankruptcy and diagnosis of terminal cancer in May 1884 until the former general and ex-president died in July 1885, Sam Grant and Sam Clemens became best of friends. In the end, the struggle of both men—Grant’s quest to retrieve his fortune and Twain’s to make his—was not about wars or books or even money. During their friendship Grant and Twain wrote the story of their country and ours.
On February 22, Grant signed a publishing contract with Sam Clemens (Mark Twain) and Charles L. Webster and Company to publish his memoirs. On June 8, Grant told Twain that he had completed volume II of his memoirs. Just a month later, July 23, 1885, Ulysses S. Grant died at 8:08 a.m.
Grant’s Memoirs were published in two volumes.
When Grant’s memoirs were published; they were the topic of intrigue and challenged by the contradictions in Grant’s life. Regardless of the fickleness of public opinion, Ulysses S. Grant was a man of personal integrity and honor which has stood the test of time.
The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant was a commercial success, Julia Grant, his wife, received about $450,000 in royalties. Grant’s successful autobiography pioneered a way for ex-presidents to earn money after their term of office. Mark Twain called the memoirs a “literary masterpiece.”