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Ulysses S. Grant was the first president to be arrested


Donald Trump may be the first American president ever indicted on criminal charges. He faces a judge this week. But one other president has been arrested.


That president was Ulysses S. Grant, and it happened while he was in office. In 1872, President Grant was speeding down a Washington, D.C., street in his horse and buggy.

JOHN MARSZALEK: And he stopped by a policeman, an African American, by the name of William West.

MARTÍNEZ: Historian John Marszalek says Officer West realized who he'd stopped.

MARSZALEK: And he says, Mr. President, you're going too fast. Oh, I know I was going too fast. I promise I'll never do it again.

INSKEEP: This gets better because the next day, Officer West again saw the president racing down the street.

MARSZALEK: West stops him again and says, I'm going to have to arrest you. So he takes him to the station. West is a little embarrassed because, after all, this is the president of the United States. But he did his duty.

INSKEEP: And President Grant apologized to the officer.

MARSZALEK: Grant said, I know I was speeding. You should arrest me. Don't feel badly about it. And this is the period when Grant is president, which is 1869 to 1877. That's the heart of the Reconstruction period. And this is the time when Grant says he becomes president only to make sure that what the Civil War was fought over really worked. And so the irony of William West, an African American, stopping him I think is wonderful.

INSKEEP: The rule of law. President Grant did not show up for his trial, though. He forfeited his $20 bond. Officer West kept the arrest quiet for decades but finally told the story to a Washington newspaper in 1908. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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