Grover Cleveland Biography

Grover Cleveland was both the Twenty-second (1885-1889) and Twenty-fourth (1893-1897) President of the United States. Born: New Jersey, 1837. Practised as a lawyer in Buffalo. Elected Mayor of Buffalo in 1881. Governor of New York. Cleveland married Frances Folsom in 1886. Cleveland was the only President to leave the White House and return for a second term. Died in 1908.

Grover Cleveland Biography:
Stephen Grover Cleveland (March 18, 1837 - June 24, 1908) was both the twenty-second and twenty-fourth President of the United States. Cleveland is the only President to serve two non-consecutive terms (1885-1889 and 1893-1897) and therefore is the only individual to be counted twice in the numbering of the presidents. He was the winner of the popular vote for President three times in 1884, 1888, and 1892 and was the only Democrat elected to the Presidency in the era of Republican political domination that lasted from 1860 to 1912. As a leader of the Bourbon Democrats, he opposed imperialism, taxes, subsidies and inflationary policies, but as a reformer he also worked against corruption, patronage, and bossism. Some of Cleveland's actions caused controversy even within his own party. His intervention in the Pullman Strike of 1894 in order to keep the railroads moving angered labor unions, and his support of the gold standard and opposition to free silver alienated the agrarian wing of the Democrats. Furthermore, critics complained that he had little imagination and seemed overwhelmed by the nation's economic disasters depressions and strikes in his second term. Even so, his reputation for honesty and good character survived the troubles of his second term.

Stephen Grover Cleveland was born on March 18, 1837 in Caldwell, New Jersey to Richard Falley Cleveland and Ann Neal Cleveland. Cleveland's father was a Presbyterian minister, originally from Connecticut. His mother was from Baltimore, the daughter of a bookseller. On his father's side, Cleveland was descended from English ancestors, the first Cleveland having emigrated to Massachusetts from northeastern England in 1635. On his mother's side, Cleveland was descended from Anglo-Irish Protestants and German Quakers from Philadelphia. He was distantly related to General Moses Cleaveland after whom the city of Cleveland, Ohio, was named. Cleveland was the fifth of nine children, five sons and four daughters. He was named Stephen Grover in honor of the first pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Caldwell, where his father was pastor at the time, but he did not use the name Stephen in his adult life. In 1841, the Cleveland family moved to Fayetteville, New York, where Grover Cleveland spent much of his childhood. In 1850, Cleveland's father took a job in Clinton, Oneida County, New York, and the family relocated there. They moved again in 1853 to Holland Patent, New York, near Utica. Not long after the family arrived in Holland Patent, Cleveland's father died.

Cleveland's education began in grammar school at the Fayetteville Academy. When the family moved to Clinton, Cleveland was enrolled at the Clinton Liberal Academy. After his father died in 1853, Cleveland left school and helped to support his family. After teaching for a year, Cleveland returned home to Holland Patent at the end of 1854. Back in Holland Patent, the seventeen-year-old Cleveland looked for work unsuccessfully. An elder in his church offered to pay for his college education if he would promise to become a minister, but Cleveland declined. Instead, the following spring Cleveland decided to make his way west to the city of Cleveland, Ohio. He stopped first in Buffalo, New York, where his uncle, Lewis W. Allen, lived. Allen dissuaded Cleveland from continuing west, and offered him a job arranging his Livestock herdbooks. Allen was an important man in Buffalo, and he introduced his nephew to influential men there, including the partners in the law firm of Rogers, Bowen, and Rogers. Cleveland later took a clerkship with the firm, and was admitted to the bar in 1859.

After becoming a lawyer, Cleveland worked for the Rogers firm for three years, leaving in 1862 to start his own practice. In January 1863, he was appointed assistant district attorney of Erie County. With the American Civil War raging, Congress passed the Conscription Act of 1863, requiring able-bodied men to serve in the army if called upon, or else to hire a substitute. Cleveland chose the latter course, paying George Benninsky, a thirty-two year-old Polish immigrant, $150 to serve in his place. As a lawyer, Cleveland became known for his single-minded concentration and dedication to hard work. In 1866, he defended some participants in the Fenian raid of that year, doing so successfully and free of charge. In 1868, Cleveland attracted some attention within his profession for his successful defense of a libel suit against the editor of the Commercial Advertiser, a Buffalo newspaper. During this time, Cleveland lived simply in a boarding house; although his income grew sufficient to support a more lavish lifestyle, Cleveland continued to support his mother and younger sisters.

From his earliest involvement in politics, Cleveland had aligned himself with the Democratic Party. In 1865, he ran for District Attorney, losing narrowly to his friend and roommate, Lyman K. Bass, the Republican nominee. Cleveland then stayed out of politics until 1870 when, with the help of his friend, Oscar Folsom, he secured the Democratic nomination for sheriff of Erie County. At the age of thirty-three, Cleveland found himself elected sheriff by a 303-vote margin, taking office on January 1, 1871. While this new career took him away from the practice of law, it was rewarding in other ways: the fees were said to yield up to $40,000 over the two-year term. The most well-known incident of his term involved the execution of a murderer, Patrick Morrisey, on September 6, 1872. Cleveland, as sheriff, was responsible for either personally carrying out the execution, or paying a deputy $10 to perform the task. Cleveland had qualms about the hanging, but opted to carry out the duty himself. He hanged another murderer, John Gaffney, on February 14, 1873. After his term as sheriff ended, Cleveland returned to private practice, opening a law firm with his friends Lyman K. Bass and Wilson S. Bissell. Bass did not spend much time at the firm, being elected to Congress in 1873, but Cleveland and Bissell soon found themselves at the top of Buffalo's legal community. Up to that point, Cleveland's political career had been honorable but unremarkable.

In the 1870s, the government of Buffalo had grown increasingly corrupt, with Democratic and Republican political machines cooperating to share the spoils. When, in 1881, the Republicans nominated a slate of particularly disreputable machine politicians, the Democrats saw the opportunity to gain the votes of disaffected Republicans by nominating a more honest candidate. The party leaders approached Cleveland and he agreed to run for mayor, provided that the rest of the ticket was to his liking. When the more notorious politicians were left off the Democratic ticket, Cleveland accepted the nomination. Cleveland was elected mayor with 15,120 votes, as against 11,528 for Milton C. Beebe, his opponent. He took office January 2, 1882. Cleveland's term as mayor was spent fighting the entrenched interests of the party machines. Among the acts that established his reputation was a veto of the street-cleaning bill passed by the Common Council.

As his reputation grew, state Democratic party officials began to consider Cleveland a possible nominee for governor. Daniel Manning, a party insider who admired Cleveland's record, promoted his candidacy. With a split in the state Republican party, 1882 looked to be a Democratic year and there were several contenders for that party's nomination. The two leading Democratic candidates were Roswell P. Flower and Henry W. Slocum, but their factions deadlocked and the convention could not agree on a nominee. Cleveland, in third place on the first ballot, picked up support in subsequent votes and emerged as the compromise choice. The Republican party remained divided against itself, and in the general election Cleveland emerged the victor, with 535,318 votes to Republican nominee Charles J. Folger's 342,464. Cleveland's margin of victory was, at the time, the largest in a contested New York election, and the Democrats also picked up seats in both houses of the legislature. Continuing his opposition to unnecessary spending, Cleveland sent the legislature eight vetos in his first two months in office. The first to attract attention was his veto of a bill to reduce the fares on New York City elevated trains to five cents. The bill had broad support because the el trains' owner, Jay Gould, was unpopular and his fare increases were widely denounced. Cleveland saw the bill as unjust, Gould had taken over the railroads when they were failing and had made the system solvent again. Moreover, Cleveland believed that altering Gould's franchise would violate the Contract Clause of the federal Constitution. Despite the initial popularity of the measure, the newspapers praised Cleveland's veto. Theodore Roosevelt, then a member of the Assembly, said that he had initially voted for the bill believing it was wrong, but wishing to punish the unscrupulous railroad barons. After the veto, Roosevelt reversed himself, as did many legislators, and the veto was sustained. Cleveland's blunt, honest ways won him popular acclaim, but they also gained him the enmity of certain factions of his own party, especially the Tammany Hall organization in New York City.

The Republicans convened in Chicago and nominated former Speaker of the House James G. Blaine of Maine for President on the fourth ballot. Blaine's nomination alienated many Republicans who viewed Blaine as ambitious and immoral. Democratic party leaders saw the Republicans' choice as an opportunity to take back the White House for the first time since 1856 if the right candidate could be found. Among the Democrats, Samuel J. Tilden was the initial front-runner, having been the party's nominee in the contested election of 1876. Tilden, however, was in poor health, and after he declined to be nominated, his supporters shifted to several other contenders. Cleveland was among the leaders in early support, but Thomas F. Bayard of Delaware, Allen G. Thurman of Ohio, and Benjamin Butler of Massachusetts also had considerable followings, along with various favorite sons. Each of the other candidates had hindrances to his nomination: Bayard had spoken in favor of secession in 1861, making him unacceptable to Northerners; Butler, conversely, was reviled throughout the South for his actions during the Civil War; Thurman was generally well-liked, but was growing old and infirm and his views on the silver question were uncertain. Cleveland, too, had detractors, Tammany remained opposed to him, but the nature of his enemies made him more friends still. Cleveland led on the first ballot, with 392 votes out of 820. On the second ballot, Tammany threw its support behind Butler, but the rest of the delegates shifted to Cleveland, and he was nominated. Thomas A. Hendricks of Indiana was selected as his running mate.

After Cleveland's nomination, reform-minded Republicans called "Mugwumps" denounced Blaine as corrupt and flocked to Cleveland. The Mugwumps, including such men as Carl Schurz and Henry Ward Beecher, were more concerned with ideals than with party, and hoped that Cleveland would endorse their crusade for civil service reform and efficiency in government. At the same time that the Democrats gained support from the Mugwumps, they lost some to the Greenback-Labor party, led by ex-Democrat Benjamin Butler. Each candidate's supporters cast aspersions on their opponents. Cleveland's supporters rehashed the old allegations that Blaine had corruptly influenced legislation in favor of the Little Rock & Fort Smith Railroad and the Northern Pacific Railway, later profiting on the sale of bonds he owned in both companies. Although the stories of Blaine's favors to the railroads had made the rounds eight years earlier, this time Blaine's correspondence was discovered, making his earlier denials less plausible. Cleveland admitted to paying child support in 1874 to Maria Crofts Halpin, the woman who claimed he fathered her child named Oscar Folsom Cleveland. Halpin was involved with several men at the time, including Cleveland's friend and law partner, Oscar Folsom, for whom the child was named. Cleveland did not know which man was the father, and is believed to have assumed responsibility because he was the only bachelor among them.

Both candidates believed that the states of New York, New Jersey, Indiana, and Connecticut would determine the election. In New York, the Tammany Hall, after vacillating, decided that they would gain more from supporting a Democrat they disliked than a Republican who would do nothing for them. While the popular vote total was close, with Cleveland winning by just one-quarter of a percent, the electoral votes gave Cleveland a majority of 219-182.

Soon after taking office, Cleveland was faced with the task of filling all of the government jobs for which the President had the power of appointment. These jobs were typically filled under the spoils system, but Cleveland announced that he would not fire any Republican who was doing his job well, and would not appoint anyone based solely on party service. He also used his appointment powers to reduce the number of federal employees, as many departments had become bloated with political time-servers. Later in his term, as his fellow Democrats chafed at being excluded from the spoils, Cleveland began to replace more of the partisan Republican officeholders with Democrats. While some of his decisions were influenced by party concerns, more of Cleveland's appointments were decided by merit alone than was the case in his predecessors' administrations. Cleveland also reformed other parts of the government. In 1887 he signed an act creating the Interstate Commerce Commission. He and Secretary of the Navy William C. Whitney undertook to modernize the navy and canceled construction contracts that had resulted in inferior ships. Cleveland angered railroad investors by ordering an investigation of western lands they held by government grant. Secretary of the Interior Lucius Q.C. Lamar charged that the rights of way for this land must be returned to the public because the railroads failed to extend their lines according to agreements. The lands were forfeited, resulting in the return of approximately 81,000,000 acres (330,000 km2).

Cleveland faced a Republican Senate and often resorted to using his veto powers. He vetoed hundreds of private pension bills for American Civil War veterans, believing that if their pensions requests had already been rejected by the Pensions Bureau, Congress should not attempt to override that decision. When Congress, pressured by the Grand Army of the Republic, passed a bill granting pensions for disabilities not caused by military service, Cleveland also vetoed that. Cleveland used the veto far more often than any President up to that time. In 1887, Cleveland issued his most well-known veto, that of the Texas Seed Bill. After a drought had ruined crops in several Texas counties, Congress appropriated $10,000 to purchase seed grain for farmers there. Cleveland vetoed the expenditure.

Protectionist Democrats, led by Samuel J. Randall, joined with Republicans to keep tariffs high. One of the most volatile issues of the 1880s was whether the currency should be backed by gold and silver, or by gold alone. The issue cut across party lines, with western Republicans and southern Democrats joining together in the call for the free coinage of silver, and both parties' representatives in the northeast holding firm for the gold standard. Because silver was worth less than its legal equivalent in gold, taxpayers paid their government bills in silver, while international creditors demanded payment in gold, resulting in a depletion of the nation's gold supply. Cleveland and Treasury Secretary Daniel Manning stood firmly on the side of the gold standard, and tried to reduce the amount of silver that the government was required to coin under the Bland-Allison Act of 1878. This angered Westerners and Southerners, who advocated for cheap money to help their poorer constituents. In reply, one of the foremost silverites, Richard P. Bland, introduced a bill in 1886 that would require the government to coin unlimited amounts of silver, inflating the then-deflating currency. While Bland's bill was defeated, so was a bill the administration favored that would repeal any silver coinage requirement. The result was a retention of the status quo, and a postponement of the resolution of the free silver issue.

Another contentious financial issue at the time was the protective tariff. While it had not been a central point in his campaign, Cleveland's opinion on the tariff was that of most Democrats: that the tariff ought to be reduced. Republicans generally favored a high tariff to protect American industries. American tariffs had been high since the Civil War, and by the 1880s the tariff brought in so much revenue that the government was running a surplus. In 1886, a bill to reduce the tariff was narrowly defeated in the House. The tariff issue was emphasized in the Congressional elections that year, and the forces of protectionism increased their numbers in the Congress. Nevertheless, Cleveland continued to advocate tariff reform. As the surplus grew, Cleveland and the reformers called for a tariff for revenue only. His message to Congress in 1887 pointed out the injustice of taking more money from the people than the government needed to pay for its operating expenses. Republicans, as well as protectionist northern Democrats like Samuel J. Randall, believed that without high tariffs American industries would fail, and continued to fight reformers' efforts. Roger Q. Mills, the chairman of the House Committee on Ways and Means, proposed a bill that would reduce the tariff burden from about 47% to about 40%. After significant exertions by Cleveland and his allies, the bill passed the House. The Republican Senate, however, failed to come to agreement with the Democratic House, and the bill died in the conference committee. Dispute over the tariff would carry over into the 1888 Presidential election.

Cleveland was a committed non-interventionist who had campaigned in opposition to expansion and imperialism. He refused to promote the previous administration's Nicaragua canal treaty, and generally was less of an expansionist in foreign relations. Cleveland's Secretary of State, Thomas F. Bayard, negotiated with Joseph Chamberlain of the United Kingdom over fishing rights in the waters off Canada, and struck a conciliatory note, despite the opposition of New England's Republican Senators. Cleveland also withdrew from Senate consideration the Berlin Conference treaty which guaranteed an open door for U.S. interests in the Congo.

Cleveland entered the White house as a bachelor, but did not remain one for long. In 1885, the daughter of Cleveland's friend Oscar Folsom visited him in Washington. Folsom's daughter, Frances, was a student at Wells College. They were soon engaged to be married. On June 2, 1886, Cleveland married Frances in the Blue Room in the White House. He was the second President to marry while in office, and the only President to have a wedding in the White House. This marriage was unusual because Cleveland was the executor of Oscar Folsom's estate and had supervised Frances' upbringing, but the public did not, in general, take exception to the match. At twenty-one years old, Frances was the youngest First Lady in American history, but the public soon warmed to her beauty and warm personality.

Cleveland successfully appointed two Justices to the Supreme Court of the United States.

The debate over tariff reduction continued into the 1888 presidential campaign. The Republicans nominated Benjamin Harrison of Indiana for President and Levi P. Morton of New York for Vice President. Cleveland was easily renominated at the Democratic convention in St. Louis. Vice President Hendricks having died in 1885, the Democrats chose Allen G. Thurman of Ohio to be Cleveland's running mate. The Republicans campaigned heavily on the tariff issue, turning out protectionist voters in the important industrial states of the North. Further, the Democrats in New York were divided over the gubernatorial candidacy of David B. Hill, weakening Cleveland's support in that swing state. As in 1884, the election focused on the swing states of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Indiana. Unlike that year, when Cleveland triumphed in all four, in 1888 he won only two, losing his home state of New York by 14,373 votes. Republican victory in that state, where Cleveland lost by just 2,348 votes, was sufficient to propel Harrison to victory, despite his loss of the nationwide popular vote. Cleveland continued his duties diligently until the end of the term and began to look forward to return to private life.

The Clevelands moved to New York City where Cleveland took a position with the law firm of Bangs, Stetson, Tracy, and MacVeigh. Cleveland's income with the firm was not high, but neither were his duties especially onerous. While they lived in New York, the Clevelands' first child, Ruth, was born in 1891. The Harrison administration worked with Congress to pass the McKinley Tariff and the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, two policies Cleveland deplored as dangerous to the nation's financial health. At first he refrained from criticizing his successor, but by 1891 Cleveland felt compelled to speak out, addressing his concerns in an open letter to a meeting of reformers in New York. The "silver letter" thrust Cleveland's name back into the spotlight just as the 1892 election was approaching.

Cleveland's stature as an ex-President and recent pronouncements on the monetary issues made him a leading contender for the Democratic nomination. His leading opponent was David B. Hill, who was by that time a Senator for New York. Hill united the anti-Cleveland elements of the Democratic party silverites, protectionists, and Tammany Hall, but was unable to create a coalition large enough to deny Cleveland the nomination. Despite some desperate maneuvering by Hill, Cleveland was nominated on the first ballot at the convention in Chicago. For Vice President, the Democrats chose to balance the ticket with Adlai E. Stevenson of Illinois, a silverite.

The Republicans renominated President Harrison, making the 1892 election a rematch of the one four years earlier. The issue of the tariff had worked to the Republicans' advantage in 1888, but the revisions of the past four years had made imported goods so expensive that now many voters shifted to the reform position. Many westerners, traditionally Republican voters, defected to the new Populist Party candidate, James Weaver, who promised free silver, generous veterans' pensions, and an eight-hour work day. Finally, the Tammany Hall Democrats adhered to the national ticket, allowing a united Democratic party to carry New York. The result was a victory for Cleveland by wide margins in both the popular and electoral votes.

Shortly after Cleveland's second term began, the Panic of 1893 struck the stock market, and he soon faced an acute economic depression. The panic was worsened by the acute shortage of gold that resulted from the free coinage of silver, and Cleveland called Congress into session early to deal with the problem. The debate over the coinage was as heated as ever, but the effects of the panic had driven more moderates to support repealing the free coinage provisions of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act. Even so, the silverites rallied their following at a convention in Chicago, and the House of Representatives took fifteen weeks of debate before passing the repeal by a considerable margin. In the Senate, the repeal of free coinage was equally contentious, but Cleveland convinced enough Democrats to stand by him that they, along with eastern Republicans, formed a 48-37 majority. With the passage of the repeal, the Treasury's gold reserves were restored to safe levels. At the time the repeal seemed a minor setback to silverites, but it marked the beginning of the end of silver as a basis for American currency.

Having succeeded in reversing the Harrison administration's silver policy, Cleveland sought next to reverse the effects of the McKinley tariff. What would become the Wilson-Gorman Tariff Act was introduced by West Virginian Representative William L. Wilson in December 1893. After lengthy debate, the bill passed the House by a considerable margin. The bill proposed moderate downward revisions in the tariff, especially on raw materials. The shortfall in revenue was to be made up by an income tax of two percent on incomes in excess of $4,000. The bill was next considered in the Senate, where opposition was stronger. Many Senators, led by Arthur Pue Gorman of Maryland, wanted more protection for their states' industries than the Wilson bill allowed. Others, such as Morgan and Hill, opposed partly out of a personal enmity to Cleveland. By the time the bill left the Senate, it had more than 600 amendments attached that nullified most of the reforms. The Sugar Trust in particular lobbied for changes that favored it at the expense of the consumer. Cleveland was unhappy with the result, and denounced the revised measure as a disgraceful product of the control of the Senate by trusts and business interests. Even so, he believed it was an improvement over the McKinley tariff and allowed it to become law without his signature.

John T. Morgan, Senator from Alabama, opposed Cleveland on free silver, the tariff, and the Hawaii treaty. The Panic of 1893 had damaged labor conditions across the United States, and the victory of anti-silver legislation worsened the mood of western laborers. A group of workingmen led by Jacob S. Coxey began to march east toward Washington, D.C. to protest Cleveland's policies. This group, known as Coxey's Army, agitated in favor of a national roads program to give jobs to workingmen, and a weakened currency to help farmers pay their debts. By the time they reached Washington, only a few hundred remained and when they were arrested the next day for walking on the grass of the United States Capitol, the group scattered. Coxey's Army was never a threat to the government, but it showed a growing dissatisfaction in the West with Eastern monetary policies. The Pullman Strike had a significantly greater impact than Coxey's Army. A strike began against the Pullman Company, and sympathy strikes, encouraged by American Railway Union leader Eugene V. Debs, soon followed. By June 1894, 125,000 railroad workers were on strike, paralyzing the nation's commerce. Because the railroads carried the mail, and because several of the affected lines were in federal receivership, Cleveland believed a federal solution was appropriate. Cleveland obtained an injunction in federal court and when the strikers refused to obey it, he sent in federal troops to Chicago and other rail centers. Leading newspapers of both parties applauded Cleveland's actions, but the use of troops hardened the attitude of organized labor toward his administration.

In January 1893, a group of Americans living in Hawai'i overthrew Queen Liliuokalani and established a provisional government under Sanford Dole. By February, the Harrison administration had agreed with representatives of the new government on a treaty of annexation and submitted it to the Senate for approval. Five days after taking office, Cleveland withdrew the treaty from the Senate and sent former Congressman James Henderson Blount to Hawaii to investigate the conditions there. In his first term, Cleveland had supported free trade with Hawai'i and accepted an amendment that gave the United States a coaling and naval station in Pearl Harbor. Now, however, Cleveland agreed with Blount's report, which found the populace to be opposed to annexation. Liliuokalani refused to grant amnesty as a condition of her reinstatement and said she would execute the current government in Honolulu, and Dole's government refused to yield their position. By December 1893, the matter was still unresolved, and Cleveland referred the issue to Congress. In his message to Congress, Cleveland rejected the idea of annexation and encouraged the Congress to continue the American tradition of non-intervention. Many in Congress, led by Senator John Tyler Morgan favored annexation, and the report Congress eventually issued favored neither annexation of Hawaii nor the use of American force to restore the Hawaiian monarch.

Closer to home, Cleveland adopted a broad interpretation of the Monroe Doctrine that did not just simply forbid new European colonies but declared an American interest in any matter within the hemisphere. When Britain and Venezuela disagreed over the boundary between the latter nation and British Guiana, Cleveland and Secretary of State Richard Olney pressured Britain into agreeing to arbitration. A tribunal convened in Paris in 1898 to decide the matter, and issued its award in 1899. The tribunal awarded the bulk of the disputed territory to British Guiana. By standing with a Latin American nation against the encroachment of a colonial power, Cleveland improved relations with the United States' southern neighbors, but the cordial manner in which the negotiations were conducted also made for good relations with Britain.

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