Grover Cleveland

Grover Cleveland

22nd & 24th President, 1885-1889 & 1893-1897

Early Life and Pre-presidency

Grover Cleveland Official Presidential portrait, 1891 Artist: Eastman Johnson

Grover Cleveland Official Presidential portrait, 1891
Artist: Eastman Johnson

  • Born Stephen Grover Cleveland on March 18, 1837 in Caldwell, New Jersey.
  • Parents: Richard Falley Cleveland and Ann Neal. Siblings: Anna Neal, Willam Neal, Mary Allen, Richard Cecil, Margaret Louise, Falley, Lewis Frederick, Susan Sophia, and Rose Elizabeth.
  • Studied at Fayetteville Academy and Clinton Liberal Academy until 1853 when he left school to support the family following the death of his father.
  • Obtained an assistant teaching position in New York City at the insitute where his brother William worked. He left the job in 1854.
  • Intending to move West, he visited his uncle in Buffalo, New York where he found work as a clerk at a law firm. He eventually studied law there.
  • Admitted to the bar in 1858 without ever attending college, then worked at the same law firm for three years, this time as a lawyer.
  • He worked as an assistant district attorney for Erie County from 1863 to 1870.
  • Avoided being conscripted to the Union Army in 1863 during the Civil War by paying a substitute $150 to take his place, a practice that was allowed.
  • Elected sheriff of Erie County in 1870 and served until 1873, then returned to his law practice.
  • Took responsibility for fathering a child, Oscar Folsom Cleveland, in 1874, even though the paternity was not established because the mother had slept with several men.
  • Elected Mayor of Buffalo City as a Democratic candidate and served in 1882. As mayor, he fought graft and corruption and vetoed many privileged appropriations.
  • Elected Governor of New York and served from 1882 to 1884. As Governor he continued in his reform efforts to remove corruption in the state.
  • Future President Theodore Roosevelt was a member of the New York State Assembly while Cleveland was Governor of the state.
  • Nominated as the Democratic Party candidate for President in the 1884 elections.
  • Cleveland’s reputation as a reformer and fighter of corruption led him to win the Presidential election of 1884.
  • He was nominated as the Democratic Party’s Presidential candidate for the 1892 election. Cleveland won the election by a wide margin in the popular and electoral votes.

Presidency

Grover Cleveland Photograph by Frederick Gutekunst, 1903

Grover Cleveland Photograph by Frederick Gutekunst, 1903

  • Took his oath of office on March 4, 1885 at the East Portico, U.S. Capitol.
  • Vice President: Thomas Hendricks (1885). Hendricks died on November 25, 1885, eight months into his term.
  • In April 1885, Cleveland repealed the executive order given by his predecessor Chester A. Arthur that opened the Dakota Territory to white settlement. He found the order in violation of treaties with Indian tribes who were occupying the territory.
  • Signed the Presidential Succession Act In January 1886, which established how the heads of the executive departments would succeed the presidency in the absence of the president and vice president.
  • In May 1886, France presented the Statue of Liberty as a gift to the United States to commemorate the two countries’ alliance in the American Revolutionary War. Cleveland recommended to Congress to receive the gift. The statue was dedicated on October 28, 1886.
  • Married Frances Folsom (1864–1947) on June 2, 1886 at the White House, becoming the only U.S. president to have a wedding there. Children: Ruth (1891–1904), Esther (1893–1980), Marion (1895–1977), Richard Folsom (1897–1974), and Francis Grover (1903–1995).
  • Signed the Dawes Act in February 1887. The law allotted parcels of land to individual members of Indian tribes. Cleveland hoped the Act would help Indians out of poverty and encourage them to assimilate into white society. The Act, however, failed to do either one.
  • Vetoed the Texas Seed Bill in February 1887 believing that the government should not extend relief to individuals who were not involved in public service or who did not work for the benefit of the public.
  • In March 1887, Cleveland challenged the constitutionality of the Tenure of Office Act of 1867 and the Act is repealed.
  • From September to October 1887, Cleveland toured the western and southern United States.
  • During his first term, Cleveland vetoed several bills providing pensions for war veterans.
  • Signed the Scott Act in October 1888 that prevented Chinese immigrants from being allowed back once they left the United States.
  • The Department of Labor and Department of Agriculture were created under Cleveland’s administration.
  • In February 1889, Cleveland signed a bill creating the territories of North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Washington as states.
  • Cleveland ran for re-election in 1888. He won the popular vote but lost the electoral vote to Republican Benjamin Harrison.
  • Took his oath of office on March 4, 1893 at the East Portico, U.S. Capitol.
  • Vice President: Adlai E. Stevenson (1893–1897).
  • Cleveland withdrew the treaty of annexation with Hawaii a few days after taking his oath of office. The treaty was submitted by former President Harrison, which he created in response to European and American settlers who had overthrown the Queen of Hawaii, installed a Republic, and desired to join the United States. Cleveland sent a former congressman to Hawaii to investigate.
  • The Panic of 1893 caused the New York stock market to decline, sharply resulting in an economic depression. A shortage of gold brought on by the Sherman Silver Purchase Act worsened the depression.
  • In June 1893, Cleveland consulted with his doctor about a lesion on the roof of his mouth. They decided to remove the lesion for fear it might be a malignant tumor. The surgery was conducted in secret on board his friend’s yacht, the Oneida, on July 1, 1893. A portion of his jaw had to be removed, but his surgeons replaced it with a prosthetic.
  • Cleveland’s second child was born in the White House on September 9, 1893. She is the first to be born in the White House.
  • Cleveland asked Congress to repeal the Sherman Silver Purchase Act implemented under President Harrison. They did so in November 1893.
  • The government attempted to sell treasury bonds to increase gold reserves two times in January 1894 without success. A third attempt in February 1895 proved successful. A fourth bond sale in January 1896 increased the gold reserves to a healthier level of $124 million.
  • After reading the conclusions of the Morgan Report, Cleveland recognized and maintained diplomatic relations with the Republic of Hawaii in August 1894.
  • The Wilson–Gorman Tariff Act became law in August 1894 without Cleveland’s signature. He did not support the bill but believed it was an improvement from the tariff bill passed by the previous administration.
  • In 1894, the United States sought arbitration in a dispute with Great Britain over that country’s disagreement with Venezuela over the boundary between the Latin American country and British Guiana. His support for Venezuela earned him great respect in that country.
  • The Cleveland administration adopted a policy of neutrality when rebels in Cuba revolted against Spanish rule in February 1895.
  • Cleveland sent federal troops to Chicago in May 1895 to break up a protest by the American Railway Union against the Pullman Railway Car Company.
  • Utah was admitted as the 45th state on January 4, 1896.
  • In February 1897, Cleveland vetoed a bill banning the admission of illiterate immigrants.

Post-presidency

Grover Cleveland Portrait by Anders Zorn, 1899

Grover Cleveland Portrait by Anders Zorn, 1899

  • Moved to New York City after the end of his term where he returned to practicing law.
  • In 1891, he publicly criticized the Harrison administration for its financial decisions in an open letter read at a meeting of reformers in New York.
  • Retired to his estate, Westland Mansion, in Princeton, New Jersey.
  • Became a trustee of Princeton University.
  • President Theodore Roosevelt asked Cleveland to chair a commission to mediate the Coal Strike of 1902 but he declined.
  • Wrote a book Presidential Problem, published in 1904, in which he discussed the most controversial decisions he made while he was president.
  • Wrote an article published in the Ladies Home Journal in 1905 in which he wrote “sensible and responsible women do not want to vote.”
  • Died June 24, 1908 in Princeton, New Jersey of a heart attack.
  • Buried two days later at Princeton Cemetery.
  • His last words were, “I have tried so hard to do right.”
  • Venezuela flew its flags at half-mast upon learning of Cleveland’s death.
  • Free New York, Inc. is working to establish the Grover Cleveland Library and Museum in Buffalo, New York.
  • There are no memorials or monuments erected in his honor. His grave is marked by a simple tombstone rather than housed in a mausoleum.