Grover Cleveland

Grover Cleveland oil painting by Anders Zorn in 1899

Grover Cleveland oil painting by Anders Zorn in 1899

Grover Cleveland was the twenty-second President as well as the twenty-fourth. His first term was from 1885-1889. He was born on March 18, 1837 in Caldwell, New Jersey. His father was a Presbyterian minister. His formal schooling ended at age fourteen when he went to work to help support the family. Cleveland’s father died when he was sixteen. At eighteen, he moved to Buffalo, where he began to study law. In 1859, Cleveland was admitted to the bar and was promoted to Chief Clerk at the law firm.

Cleveland got interested in Democratic politics but lost his first election in 1865. He re-entered private law practice and in1870, he ran for sheriff and won. He proved to be a very honest official. When his term ended, he did not run for re-election. In 1881, Cleveland won the mayoral election by campaigning as a reformer against corruption.

At the state convention in 1882 Cleveland won the nomination for governor and then the general election. Cleveland was an honest and forthright governor. He refused to sign any bill with any hint of corruption. His reputation for honesty grew. Republicans nominated Blaine for President; moderates urged the Democrats to nominate a reformer.

Cleveland was nominated in July of 1884 despite the New York machine. Scandal erupted ten days later. A newspaper reported that Cleveland had fathered an illegitimate child, now eleven. Cleveland would not deny it. The Republicans had a field day with slogans. The Democrats countered with exposes of their about Blaine’s corruption. The race was tight. But one of Blaine’s supporters called the Democrats the party of “rum, Romanism, and rebellion.” Blaine lost the New York Catholic vote, and the election.

Cleveland was inaugurated on March 4, 1885. His inaugural address focused on the need for reforms. Throughout his first administration, Cleveland made sure no special interest legislation would get through, and vetoed more than 300 bills. Cleveland called for reductions in tariffs. He asked for and got legislation creating the Department of Labor. He was also able to oversee passage of the Interstate Commerce Act in 1887.

Cleveland married Frances Folsom in 1886 in the White House, a first. They went on to have five children. Cleveland was able, due to the Interstate Commerce Act, to recover some eighty million acres of land from the railroads. His action angered the Civil War veteran’s organization when he vetoed a pension measure for unemployed veterans.

Cleveland was re-nominated by the Democrats in 1888. The Republicans nominated Benjamin Harrison, grandson of President William H. Harrison. Cleveland knew that the Tammany machine was out to defeat him. His prediction came true. He lost New York by 13,000 votes and lost 233-168 in the Electoral College. At the time of Harrison’s inauguration, Cleveland declared himself to be the “happiest man in America”.

Cleveland served his second term from 1893-1897. After his loss to Benjamin Harrison in 1888, Cleveland moved to New York City to practice law. He and his wife Frances began to plan a return to the White House. Cleveland found much to attack.

Under Harrison, the Republican-controlled Congress passed a number of inflationary spending bills, including higher tariffs, a broad range of appropriation measures, and increased the coinage of silver. In the off-year elections of 1890, the Democrats won a landslide victory with nearly half of the Republicans being defeated. Despite this, the Republicans again nominated Harrison for President at their 1892 convention.

At the Democratic convention, Cleveland’s old enemies from Tammany Hall were active. Their efforts had cost Cleveland the election in 1888. They controlled the whole NY state delegation. Despite this, Cleveland won the nomination on the first ballot. The resultant campaign was quiet. Neither Cleveland nor Harrison actively campaigned. The Populist Party had nominated James Weaver and his platform was strong in the West. When votes were counted, Cleveland won. Weaver and the Populists had siphoned off many votes from the Republicans. Cleveland had 277 votes, Harrison 145, Weaver 22.

At the time of his second inauguration in March of 1893, it was clear that the county was heading for difficult times. The excesses of spending plus inflation during Harrison’s term were beginning to take their toll. Gold had been moving out of the county at high rates. Farm prices were falling. Worse, one of the major railroads had just declared bankruptcy with debts of more than $125 million. In May, the Panic of 1893 struck.

Only two months into his second Presidency, Cleveland found the stock market collapsing, and many large companies going bankrupt. Silver was strongly devalued. In June, he called for a special session of Congress in August. At the same time, Cleveland went to New York for a secret operation. Cancer had been discovered on the roof of his month. It was a success. Most of his upper jaw was removed and an artificial upper jaw of rubber was inserted. The operation remained a secret until well after he left office.

At the special session, Cleveland asked for repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act. This met with resistance, but was passed with the help of some Republican senators giving some relief to the Treasury. By May, 1894, things worsened economically. Violence erupted in Illinois. The Pullman Company fired workers protesting a wage cut. In sympathy, the Railway Union in June struck and refused to handle any train hauling Pullman cars. Cleveland ordered Federal troops in to preserve order in Illinois and ensure movement of the mail. The strike ended by mid-July.

Cleveland continued to battle economic problems. By January 1895, only $40 million in gold remained in the Treasury. Cleveland pulled together a syndicate of bankers to stop the flow, ending the threat. He also invoked the Monroe Doctrine against Great Britain.

Cleveland refused to accept re-nomination in 1896, and William Jennings Bryan was nominated and lost to McKinley. Cleveland retired with his family to Princeton, NJ. He became a Trustee of Princeton University in 1901. He was appointed to the board of trustees of the Equitable Life Assurance Society in 1905, and in 1907 was named head of the Association of Presidents of Life Insurance Companies. He died of heart and kidney ailments on June 24, 1908 at the age of seventy-one.

Grover Cleveland Facts

  • President No.: 22nd & 24th
  • When did Grover Cleveland serve? 1885-1889, 1893-1897
  • What was Grover Cleveland’s party? Democrat
  • Where was Grover Cleveland from? New York
  • Who was Grover Cleveland’s wife? Frances Folsom Cleveland
  • When was Grover Cleveland born? March 18, 1837
  • Where was Grover Cleveland born? Caldwell, New Jersey
  • When did Grover Cleveland die? June 24, 1908
  • Where did Grover Cleveland die? In his home in Princeton, New Jersey
  • Which college did Grover Cleveland attend? Studied at home
  • What was Grover Cleveland’s Jobs Before President? Lawyer, State Attorney General, Mayor of Buffalo, Governer of New York
  • What was Grover Cleveland’s height? 5 feet, 11 inches
  • What was the population when Grover Cleveland was president? 62,947,714
  • What hobbies did Grover Cleveland have? Fishing
  • What transportation did Grover Cleveland use? Train
  • How did Grover Cleveland communicate? Telephone, typed letter


State of the Union Addresses

Inaugural Addresses

Grover Cleveland Speeches

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