After Thursday’s news that a Manhattan grand jury voted to file criminal charges against Donald Trump, you might have seen stories asserting that it was the first time a current or former president was indicted.
While that’s technically true, it doesn’t mean that no other president has been arrested. It’s happened only one other time and involved the crime of speeding.
The year was 1872…
You might be wondering how a president was arrested for speeding decades before the first automobiles hit the market. Here’s how it went down:
Shortly after the Civil War ended, freed slave William West got a job as a cop in the nation’s capital. When he was patrolling for speeding horse-drawn carriages, he spotted one and initiated a stop. The carriage was transporting President Ulysses S. Grant, and West initially decided to simply issue a warning.
The following day, however, West saw the same carriage traveling too fast in the same area and determined that the president should be arrested.
“Duty is duty, sir”
On its face, this case might seem too insignificant for a police officer to pursue against the nation’s commander-in-chief. The way West saw it, however, no one was above the law. Of course, that doesn’t mean he took any pleasure in placing the president under arrest.
"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, but duty is duty, sir, and I will have to place you under arrest," the officer reportedly said.
While the charges against Trump remained sealed as of this writing, it’s safe to say that they’re more serious than the one Grant faced. In the end, he posted a $20 bond and praised West’s decision to hold him accountable.