The firm of Grant & Ward was organized in 1880 and originally consisted of Ferdinand Ward, Ulysses S. Grant, Jr., and James D. Fish. General U. S. Grant did not become connected with the firm until subsequent to his return from his memorable tour of Europe, after the close of his second term as President of the United States. At first the General was a limited partner only, with a one-seventh interest in the business, but later he became an equal partner.
In some reminiscences of General Grant, written by Ferdinand Ward and published in December, 1909, Ward claimed that instead of the firm of Grant & Ward being responsible for the failure of the Marine National Bank, as was the general belief, the reverse was the case, and that the failure of the firm was the result of its efforts to bolster up the bank when it was in a desperate condition, owing to large and continued withdrawals of deposits during the financial stress of 1884. The record, however, does not support this contention, but shows that the failure of the bank was directly due to its loose methods of dealing with the brokerage firm of Grant & Ward and the large unsecured and uncollectable indebtedness of this firm to the bank.
While General Grant's individual resources suffered seriously through his unfortunate connection with the firm of Grant & Ward and he may have temporarily lost something in prestige, whatever part he played in the financial tragedy which brought loss and ruin to so many and saddened the closing months of his honorable and eventful career, no stigma of dishonor or imputation of wilful wrong-doing ever attached to his name in connection with the transactions of this firm or in any of his public acts or personal business dealings with his fellow-man.
James D. Fish was indicted in June following the failure of the bank, for embezzling and misapplying the funds of the association, and Ferdinand Ward was indicted at the same time for aiding and abetting him. In December, 1884, upon closer examination of the law and a fuler knowledge of the facts, both Fish and Ward were reindicted to more fully cover all their transactions, including false entries in the books of the bank made for the purpose of deception.
The trial of Fish was held during March and April, 1885, occupying a month, and resulted in his conviction. Exceptions were taken by his counsel to some of the points of law involved and arguments were heard before the full bench on these exceptions in June, 1885, with the result that the Government was sustained and Fish was sentenced for a term of ten years in the penitentiary.
Ferdinand Ward, in the meantime, was confined in the Ludlow Street jail, under arrest by the State authorities, which prevented his trial under the Federal indictment as an aider and abettor of Fish. He was, however, indicted by the State Grand Jury, for larceny in obtaining money under false pretenses by the use of checks on a bank in which he had no funds, with the intent to deceive and defraud. His trial commenced on October 28, 1885, lasted one week, and resulted in his conviction and sentence to the penitentiary for a term of ten years.
Fish, after serving the greater part of his sentence in the Auburn State Prison, was pardoned by President Cleveland. After his release from the penitentiary, he lived in strict retirement and spent much of his time in his library among his books and papers, of which he had a rare collection. He died at his residence in Brooklyn, N. Y., in March, 1912, at the advanced age of ninety-three years.