- Grover Cleveland - "The Great Obstructionist" [Biography]
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Grover Cleveland

Stephen Grover Cleveland (March 18, 1837 – June 24, 1908) was the 22nd (1885–1889) and 24th (1893–1897) President of the United States, and the only President to serve two non-consecutive terms. He was the only Democrat elected to the presidency in the era of Republican political domination between the American Civil War and the election of Woodrow Wilson in 1912 (Andrew Johnson is considered a Democrat, although he was technically elected under the National Union Party ticket, not the Democratic one).

Cleveland was a hard worker and was scrupulously honest at a time when many politicians were neither. Critics complained that he had little imagination and seemed overwhelmed by the nation's economic problems in his second term. He lost control of his Democratic party to the agrarians and silverites in 1896.

Youth and early political career

Cleveland was born in Caldwell, New Jersey to the Rev. Richard Cleveland and Anne Neal. He was one of nine children. His father was a Presbyterian minister, and as the church frequently transferred its ministers, the family moved many times, mainly around central and western New York State.

As a lawyer in Buffalo, he became notable for his single-minded concentration upon whatever task faced him. He was elected sheriff of Erie County, New York in 1870 and, while in that post, carried out at least two hangings of condemned criminals. Political opponents would later hold this against him, calling him the "Buffalo Hangman". Cleveland stated that he wished to take the responsibility for the executions himself, and not pass it along to subordinates.

At 44, he emerged into a political prominence that carried him to the White House in three years. Running as a reformer, he was elected mayor of Buffalo in 1881, with the slogan "Public Office is a Public Trust" as his trademark of office. In 1882 he was elected Governor of New York.

First term as President, 1885-89


Cleveland won the Presidency with the combined support of Democrats and reform Republicans called "Mugwumps", who disliked the record of his opponent, Senator James G. Blaine of Maine.

The campaign was relatively negative. To counter Cleveland's image of purity his opponents reported that Cleveland had fathered an illegitimate child while he was a lawyer in Buffalo.

Although Cleveland never publicly admitted or denied the rumor, he did admit to paying child support to Maria Crofts Halpin, the woman who claimed he fathered her child, who was named Oscar Folsom Cleveland, in 1874. Halpin was involved with several men at the time, including Cleveland's law partner and mentor, Oscar Folsom, for whom the child was named. (Cleveland is believed to have assumed responsibility because he was the only bachelor among them). After Cleveland's election as President, Democratic newspapers added a line to the sound-bite used against Cleveland and made it: "Ma, Ma, where's my Pa? Gone to the White House! Ha Ha Ha!"

Personal life

A bachelor, Cleveland was initially ill at ease with all the comforts of the White House. "I must go to dinner," he wrote a friend, "but I wish it was to eat a pickled herring, a Swiss cheese, and a chop at Louis's instead of the French stuff I shall find."

In June 1886, Cleveland married 21-year-old Frances Folsom, the daughter of his former law partner. He was the second president to be married while in office (after John Tyler in 1844), and the only president to have a wedding in the White House itself. Frances Cleveland was also the youngest First Lady in the history of the U.S.; the press highlighted the age difference of the two: Cleveland had been the girl's guardian since she was 11 (Folsom had grown up calling Cleveland "Uncle Steve"), and was revealed to have bought her parents a baby carriage for her. Still more salacious allegations followed: in the election of 1888, Republicans spread false rumors that Cleveland beat his wife, leading to the epithet "the Beast of Buffalo."


Cleveland's administration might be characterized by a quote from his inauguration address: "I have only one thing to do, and that is to do right". Cleveland himself insisted that, as President, his greatest accomplishment was blocking others' bad ideas. He vigorously pursued a policy barring special favors to any economic group. Vetoing a bill to appropriate $10,000 to distribute seed grain among drought-stricken farmers in Texas, he wrote: "Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the Government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character...." He also vetoed hundreds of private pension bills to American Civil War veterans whose claims were fraudulent. When Congress, pressured by the Grand Army of the Republic, passed a bill granting pensions for disabilities not caused by military service, Cleveland vetoed that, too. Cleveland used the veto far more often than any President up to that time.

He angered the railroads by ordering an investigation of western lands they held by Government grant, forcing them to return 81,000,000 acres (328,000 km²). He also signed the Interstate Commerce Act, the first law attempting Federal regulation of the railroads.

In December 1887, he called on Congress to reduce high protective tariffs. Told that he had given Republicans an effective issue for the campaign of 1888, he retorted, "What is the use of being elected or re-elected unless you stand for something?" He often opposed the Republican-controlled Senate. A joke of the day had the First Lady waking in the middle of the night and whispering to Cleveland, "Wake up, Grover. I think there's a burglar in the house." Cleveland sleepily mumbled, "No, no. Perhaps in the Senate, my dear, but not in the House."

1888 campaign for reelection

Cleveland was defeated in the 1888 presidential election. Although he won a larger share of the popular vote than Republican candidate Benjamin Harrison, he received fewer electoral votes and thus lost the election. Upon leaving the White House in 1889, Frances Cleveland told the servants, "I want you to take good care of all the furniture and ornaments in the house, for I want to find everything just as it is now when we come back again....four years from today or roughly 1,460 days from now."

Second term as President, 1893-1897


The primary issues for Cleveland for the 1892 campaign were reducing the tariff and stopping free minting of silver which had depleted the gold reserves of the U.S. Treasury. Cleveland was elected again in 1892, the only President ever elected to non-consecutive terms.


Shortly after Cleveland was inaugurated, the Panic of 1893 struck the stock market, and he soon faced an acute economic depression. He dealt directly with the Treasury crisis rather than with business failures, farm mortgage foreclosures, and unemployment. He obtained repeal of the mildly inflationary Sherman Silver Purchase Act. With the aid of J. P. Morgan and Wall Street he maintained the Treasury's gold reserve. Critics accused him of being unfeeling and heartless, but Cleveland believed that the nation's finances had to be maintained in sound condition. His critics seized control of the Democratic party in 1896, repudiated his administration, and nominated William Jennings Bryan. Cleveland chose to not run again for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1896, but was disappointed when his party nominated William Jennings Bryan on a Silver Platform. Cleveland supported a third-party Gold Standard ticket that managed only 100,000 votes in the general election. Agrarians again nominated Bryan in 1900, but in 1904 the conservatives, with Cleveland's support, regained control of the party and nominated Alton B. Parker.

He was an adamant opponent of strikes that interfered with interstate commerce and the operation of the government, as shown in his disapproval of the Pullman Strike. When railroad strikers in Chicago, Illinois violated a court injunction, Cleveland sent Federal troops to enforce it, since interstate commerce was involved, including mail delivery under the auspices of the federal government. "If it takes the entire army and navy of the United States to deliver a postcard in Chicago," he thundered, "that card will be delivered."

Invoking the Monroe Doctrine, Cleveland also forced the United Kingdom to accept arbitration of a disputed boundary in Venezuela. His administration is credited with the modernization of the U.S. Navy that allowed the U.S. to decisively win the Spanish-American War in 1898, one year after he left office.

In 1893, Cleveland sent former Congressman James Henderson Blount to Hawaii to investigate the overthrow of Queen Liliuokalani and the establishment of a republic. He supported Blount's scathing report; called for the restoration of Liliuokalani; and withdrew from the Senate the treaty of annexation of Hawaii. When the deposed Queen announced she would execute the current government in Honolulu, Cleveland dropped the issue.


Just after Cleveland began his second term in 1893, Dr. R.M. O'Reilly found an ulcerated sore a little less than one inch in diameter on the left lingual surface of Cleveland's hard palate. Samples taken proved the growth to be a malignant cancer. Due to the financial depression of the country, Cleveland decided to have surgery performed on the tumor in secrecy to avoid further market panic. The surgery occurred on July 1, to give Cleveland time to make a full recovery in time for an August 7 address to Congress, which had recessed at the end of June.

Under the guise of a vacation, Cleveland, accompanied by lead surgeon Dr. Joseph Bryant, left for New York. Bryant, joined by his assistant Dr. John F. Erdmann, Dr. W.W. Keen Jr., Dr. Ferdinand Hasbrouck (dentist and anesthesiologist), and Dr. Edward Janeway, operated aboard the yacht Oneida as it sailed in the East River to Long Island Sound. The surgery was conducted through the mouth, to avoid any scars or other signs of surgery. The team, sedating Cleveland with nitrous oxide (laughing gas), removed his upper left jaw and portions of his hard palate. The size of the tumor and the extent of the operation left Cleveland's mouth severely disfigured. During another surgery, an orthodontist fitted Cleveland with a hard rubber prosthesis that corrected his speech and covered up the surgery.

A cover story about the removal of two bad teeth kept the suspicious press somewhat placated. Even when a newspaper story appeared, giving details of the actual operation, the participating surgeons discounted the severity of what transpired during Cleveland's vacation. In 1917, one of the surgeons present on the Oneida wrote an article detailing the operation. The lump was preserved and is on display at the Mόtter Museum in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Later life and death

After leaving the White House, Cleveland lived in retirement in Princeton, New Jersey. For a time he was a trustee of Princeton University, bringing him into contact with Woodrow Wilson, a professor and later President of the University; Wilson would be the only other Democrat elected President of the U.S. between 1860 and 1932. Cleveland died on June 24, 1908 from a heart attack. He was buried in the Princeton Cemetery of the Nassau Presbyterian Church.

Honors and Memorials

Cleveland's portrait was on the U.S. $1000 bill from 1928 to 1946. He also appeared on a $1000 of 1907, and the first few issues of Federal Reserve notes from 1914, on the $20.

Since he was the both the 22nd and 24th president, he will be featured on two separate dollar coins to be released in 2012 as part of the Presidential $1 Coin Act of 2005.

Many public schools across the country are named in his honor.

Cabinet (1885–1889) President Vice President   Secretary of State Secretary of the Treasury   Secretary of War Attorney General Postmaster General   Secretary of the Navy Secretary of the Interior   Secretary of Agriculture
Grover Cleveland1885–1889
Thomas A. Hendricks1885
Thomas F. Bayard1885–1889
Daniel Manning1885–1887
Charles S. Fairchild1887–1889
William C. Endicott1885–1889
Augustus H. Garland1885–1889
William F. Vilas1885–1888
Don M. Dickinson1888–1889
William C. Whitney1885–1889
Lucius Q. C. Lamar1885–1888
William F. Vilas1888–1889
Norman J. Coleman1889
Cabinet (1893–1897) President Vice President Secretary of State   Secretary of the Treasury Secretary of War Attorney General   Postmaster General   Secretary of the Navy Secretary of the Interior   Secretary of Agriculture
Grover Cleveland1893–1897
Adlai E. Stevenson1893–1897
Walter Q. Gresham1893–1895
Richard Olney1895–1897
John G. Carlisle1893–1897
Daniel S. Lamont1893–1895
Richard Olney1893–1895
Judson Harmon1895–1897
Wilson S. Bissell1893–1895
William L. Wilson1895–1897
Hilary A. Herbert1893–1897
Hoke Smith1893–1896
David R. Francis1896–1897
Julius S. Morton1893–1897
Supreme Court appointments

Cleveland appointed the following Justices to the Supreme Court of the United States during his first term.
  • Lucius Quintus C. Lamar - 1888
  • Melville Weston Fuller - Chief Justice - 1888
Cleveland appointed the following Justices to the Supreme Court during his second term.
  • Edward Douglass White - 1894
  • Rufus Wheeler Peckham - 1896
Two of Cleveland's nominees were rejected by the Senate.
  • William Hornblower, on January 15, 1894, by a vote of 24-30.
  • Wheeler Hazard Peckham, (the older brother of Rufus Wheeler) on February 16, 1894, by a vote of 32-41.
Significant events
  • American Federation of Labor is created (1886)
  • Haymarket Riot (1886)
  • Wabash, St. Louis & Pacific Railroad Company v. Illinois (1886)
  • Interstate Commerce Act (1887)
  • Dawes Act (1887)
  • Panic of 1893
  • Cleveland Opposes Annexation of Hawaii (1893)
  • Wilson-Gorman Tariff Act (1894)
  • Pullman Strike (1894)
  • Coxey's Army (1894)
  • United States v. E. C. Knight Co. (1895)
States admitted to the Union
  • Utah – January 4, 1896

contributed by Wikipedia

6 February 2006

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