Although former President Donald Trump is soon expected to become the first U.S. president to be indicted, former President Ulysses S. Grant was the first, and so far only, president to have been arrested.
Grant was arrested in 1872 on the corner of 13th and M Street NW in the nation’s capital for speeding in his horse-drawn carriage. Grant’s arrest was recounted years later by the arresting officer, William H. West, in a 1908 story for the Washington Evening Star headlined “Only Policeman Who Ever Arrested a President.”
West, a black man who fought in the Civil War, was one of two black officers in the D.C. police department during Reconstruction.
“Gen. Grant was an ardent admirer of a good horse and loved nothing better than to sit behind a pair of spirited animals,” the Evening Star reported. “He was a good driver, and sometimes ‘let them out’ to try their mettle.”
West explained that he let Grant go after the first time he stopped him for speeding but ultimately arrested him the next day after stopping him again for the same offense, according to the Washington Post.
“Policeman West held up his hand for them to stop,” the Evening Star’s story said. “Grant was driving a pair of fast steppers and he had some difficulty in halting them, but this he managed to do.”
“Well, officer, what do you want with me?” Grant asked West.
“I want to inform you, Mr. President, that you are violating the law by speeding along this street,” West reportedly replied. “Your fast driving, sir, has set the example for a lot of other gentlemen.”
“The president apologized, promised it wouldn’t happen again and galloped away,” according to the Washington Post.
However, West stopped Grant for the same offense the following day. On the second stop, Grant had a “smile on his face” that made him look like “a schoolboy who had been caught in a guilty act by a teacher,” according to the Evening Star’s reporting.
“Do you think, officer, that I was violating the speed laws?” Grant asked West.
“I do, Mr. President,” West responded.
West apologized to Grant before arresting him but opined that “duty is duty.”
“I am very sorry, Mr. President, to have to do it, for you are the chief of the nation, and I am nothing but a policeman,” West said. “But duty is duty, sir, and I will have to place you under arrest.”
The Post reported that “it’s nearly impossible” to know whether the Evening Star’s reporting is accurate, given that journalistic standards “were not as rigorous back then as today.”
However, former D.C. Police Chief Cathy Lanier confirmed Grant’s arrest in 2012.
“He actually was racing his buggy on M street… We seized his horse and buggy,” Lanier said.
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Jordan Dixon-Hamilton is a reporter for Breitbart News. Write to him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.