Tuesday, June 10, 2008

#22 & #24 - Grover Cleveland, 1885-1889, 1893-1897

George W. Bush is the 43rd President of the United States. He is the 42nd person to hold the office, all because of Grover Cleveland, who has the distinction of being the only man to serve non-consecutive terms as President. Cleveland is also regarded as one of the most respected and honest politicians of the Gilded Age.

Although born in New Jersey, Cleveland made his mark in New York politics. He served as Mayor of Buffalo, after serving as Sheriff of Erie County. His success as Mayor swept him into the governorship of New York in 1882. His meteoric rise to the Presidency was nearly derailed when it was revealed that Cleveland had fathered a child out of wedlock. Cleveland confronted the issue head on and it quickly became a non-issue.

Once he became President, the first Democrat elected after the Civil War and the only Democrat to serve between 1860 and 1912, he quickly moved to do away with corruption, party politics and scandal. During his administration the Interstate Commerce Commission was established to regulate railroads and later trucking in the United States. The ICC was abolished in 1995.

Cleveland, who had been a lifelong bachelor, married Frances Folsom in 1886 in a grand White House wedding (the only president to be married in the White House). Folsom was twenty-seven years younger than Cleveland, but the marriage was seemingly a happy one and Folsom became a very popular First Lady.

After losing to Benjamin Harrison in 1888, Cleveland returned to New York City to practice law and planning his return to Washington. Frances Cleveland is reported to have told a White House staff member in March 1889, "Now, Jerry, 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. We are coming back four years from today." He easily defeated Harrison in 1892. Cleveland's second term was marked by a severe economic depression, which Cleveland believed had been caused by the Sherman Silver Purchase Act. Cleveland called Congress into special session and arranged for the law's repeal, which had been passed in 1890. However, the depression deepened and Cleveland was forced into a deal with J.P. Morgan, which was viewed by ordinary Americans that Cleveland had sold out and had lost touch with everyday America. These views were reinforced by Cleveland's handling of the Pullman Strike in 1894, when he sent U.S. troops to stop the violence at the Pullman facility in Chicago.

Cleveland went to the 1896 Democratic convention and faced a deeply divided party. William Jennings Bryan rose and gave an impassioned speech on the Gold Standard ("You shall not crucify mankind upon a Cross of Gold") and the party nominated Bryan to be their standard-bearer in 1896, though he lost the election to Republican William McKinley (come back next week!).

The Facts
  • born March 18, 1837 in Caldwell, New Jersey
  • died June 24, 1908 in Princeton, New Jersey (age 71)
  • Party: Democrat
The Election of 1884
The Election of 1888
  • Benjamin Harrison / Levi Morton (R) - 5,443,892 (47.82%) / 233 EVs
  • Grover Cleveland / Allen Thurman (D) - 5,534,488 (48.62%) / 168 EVs
The Election of 1892
  • Grover Cleveland / Adlai Stevenson (D) - 5,553,898 (46.02%) / 277 EVs
  • Benjamin Harrison / Whitelaw Reid (R) - 5,190,799 (43.01%) / 145 EVs
  • James Weaver / James Field (Populist) - 1,026,595 (8.51%) / 22 EVs
  • Cleveland won the popular vote in 1888, but lost in the Electoral College. All three of the elections in which he was involved we decided by 3 percentage points or less.
  • In 1886, the Statue of Liberty was dedicated, although it was Cleveland's administration that passed the nation's first immigration exclusion laws.
  • Cleveland was born Stephen Grover Cleveland (see also Woodrow Wilson, Ulysses S. Grant, and Gerald Ford).
  • Cleveland and Wilson are also linked in that, during his retirement, Cleveland sat on the Board of Trustees at Princeton University at the time when Wilson was serving as its President.
  • As Sheriff of Erie County, he was also Chief Executioner and personally hanged two murderers.
  • Cleveland answered his own phone in the White House.
  • Cleveland vetoed more than 400 bills in his first term, more than double the number of vetoes cast by all previous presidents. Cleveland used his veto powers 584 times during his two terms, which is exceeded only by Franklin Roosevelt, who served longer than Cleveland.
  • Cleveland was distantly related to the general Moses Cleaveland, for whom the city of Cleveland is named.
  • Cleveland had significant oral surgery to remove cancer in his mouth during his second term. The President was operated while on the presidential yacht and it was not until 1917, when one of the surgeons wrote an article about the procedure that the truth was known.
  • In the current series of Presidential $1 coins, Cleveland will be honored with two coins to mark his two discontinuous terms.
  • Grover and Frances Cleveland's daughter, Esther, was the first child born in the White House


Special K. said...

Frances Cleveland (nee Folsom) was a graduate of Wells College, a small women's liberal arts college which is dear to the hearts of many:

Amy said...

At my Jeopardy! audition yesterday, one of the questions on the written test was about the name of a presidential home. I couldn't think of it until four hours later ... but you haven't gotten to him anyways, so even if I did pay more attention to these posts*, it wouldn't have helped.

* I mean, I love them & keep up the good work, but sometimes I just skim them at first and come back later for a closer reading and detailed analysis. Yeah... that's the ticket.

Mary Witzl said...

These are great, and I always enjoy reading about the person behind the name. Cleveland sounds like a good guy. I'm sorry about his immigration exclusion acts, though. Weren't they against the Chinese, or were those in 1882? I forget...

Brave Astronaut said...

K - well there seems to be mounting pressure that perhaps we need to do a series on First Ladies.

Amy - Jeopardy audition? Now I'm going to have to tell my story in a future post.

Shame on you. As a good Ohioan, you should be reading this set quite regularly, as the Ohioans are fast and furious in this era.

So what was the house? Springwood? Sagamore Hill? Rancho del Cielo? Inquiring minds want to know!

Mary - I am glad you are enjoying them. It has been a lot of fun. You are correct about the Chinese Exclusion Act. One can usually find a blot on most of their records.

Amy said...

They told us we're not supposed to blab about the test questions, since somebody may audition in the future and we wouldn't want to give them an advantage that we didn't have, but .... none of your guesses were right.

I was going to write it all up and post the saga on Wednesday, but I must have been distracted by something shiny, because that obviously didn't happen. In fact, this whole week has been terrible in terms of accomplishing anything of value. I think it's the heat: It saps my will to live.

I'm at the office by myself today, which ordinarily would mean that it's prime time for blogging, but I kind of need to suck it up and cram in all the tasks I should have finished this week in one big half-a$$ed attempt to have some "progress" to report at the Monday morning meeting. : (

So, in summation: You'll probably post your story before I post mine.

And I didn't say I don't read the presidential posts, it's just that sometimes you want some mental bubble gum, so you cruise by your friends' blogs to see what craziness they've got going on and then the blog equivalent of ... I can't even come up with a specific food item right now, but I'm picturing something healthful, high in fiber, and chewing intensive, to represent how much concentration is required to process it and how much beneficial information it contains. If I wanted to read that, I may as well go back to work.

Which is what I'm totally doing right now, I swear: Final proof of all 98 pages of the curriculum unit for Brokaw's The Greatest Generation...

Bleh. Maybe I'll go see what's new on Facebook.

Anonymous said...

You forgot about the part where he's the first president to have a summer White House on Cape Cod. Gray Gables, which is a neighborhood in Bourne, to be specific.