Born: March 18, 1837 in Caldwell, New Jersey
Died: June 24, 1908 in his
home in Princeton, New Jersey
Married to Frances Folsom Cleveland
The First Democrat elected after the Civil War, Grover
Cleveland was the only President to leave the White House and return
for a second term four years later.
One of nine children of a Presbyterian minister, Cleveland was born
in New Jersey in 1837. He was raised in upstate New York. As a lawyer
in Buffalo, he became notable for his single-minded concentration upon
whatever task faced him.
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, and later, Governor of New York.
Cleveland won the Presidency with the combined support
of Democrats and reform Republicans, the "Mugwumps," who disliked
the record of his opponent James G. Blaine of Maine.
A bachelor, Cleveland was ill at ease at first 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'
instead of the French stuff I shall find." In June 1886 Cleveland
married 21-year-old Frances Folsom; he was the only President married
in the White House.
Cleveland 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 many private pension bills to 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 it, too.
He angered the railroads by ordering an investigation of western lands
they held by Government grant. He forced them to return 81,000,000 acres.
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?" But Cleveland was defeated in 1888;
although he won a larger popular majority than the Republican candidate
Benjamin Harrison, he received fewer electoral votes.
Elected again in 1892, Cleveland faced an acute 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 and, with the aid of
Wall Street, maintained the Treasury's gold reserve.
When railroad strikers in Chicago violated an injunction, Cleveland
sent Federal troops to enforce it. "If it takes the entire army
and navy of the United States to deliver a post card in Chicago," he
thundered, "that card will be delivered."
Cleveland's blunt treatment of the railroad strikers stirred the pride
of many Americans. So did the vigorous way in which he forced Great Britain
to accept arbitration of a disputed boundary in Venezuela. But his policies
during the depression were generally unpopular. His party deserted him
and nominated William Jennings Bryan in 1896.
After leaving the White House, Cleveland lived in retirement in Princeton,
New Jersey. He died in 1908.