Grover Cleveland

Grover Cleveland
Grover Cleveland - NARA - 518139 (cropped).jpg
22nd and 24th President of the United States
In office
March 4, 1893 – March 4, 1897
Vice PresidentAdlai Stevenson I
Preceded byBenjamin Harrison
Succeeded byWilliam McKinley
In office
March 4, 1885 – March 4, 1889
Vice PresidentThomas A. Hendricks (1885)
None (1885–1889)[a]
Preceded byChester A. Arthur
Succeeded byBenjamin Harrison
28th Governor of New York
In office
January 1, 1883 – January 6, 1885
LieutenantDavid B. Hill
Preceded byAlonzo B. Cornell
Succeeded byDavid B. Hill
34th Mayor of Buffalo
In office
January 2, 1882 – November 20, 1882
Preceded byAlexander Brush
Succeeded byMarcus M. Drake
17th Sheriff of Erie County, New York
In office
January 1, 1871 – December 31, 1873[1]
Preceded byCharles Darcy
Succeeded byJohn B. Weber
Personal details
Stephen Grover Cleveland

(1837-03-18)March 18, 1837
Caldwell, New Jersey, U.S.
DiedJune 24, 1908(1908-06-24) (aged 71)
Princeton, New Jersey, U.S.
Resting placePrinceton Cemetery, New Jersey
Political partyDemocratic
Frances Folsom (m. 1886)
Children6, including Ruth ("Baby"), Esther, Richard
ParentsRichard Falley Cleveland
Ann Neal
RelativesRose Cleveland (sister)
Philippa Foot (granddaughter)
SignatureCursive signature in ink

Stephen Grover Cleveland (March 18, 1837 – June 24, 1908) was an American politician and lawyer who was the 22nd and 24th president of the United States, the only president in American history to serve two non-consecutive terms in office (1885–1889 and 1893–1897).[b] He won the popular vote for three presidential elections—in 1884, 1888, and 1892—and was one of two Democrats (with Woodrow Wilson) to be elected president during the era of Republican political domination dating from 1861 to 1933.

Born to a Presbyterian minister, Cleveland grew up in upstate New York. In 1881, he was elected Mayor of Buffalo and later, governor of New York. Cleveland was the leader of the pro-business Bourbon Democrats who opposed high tariffs, Free Silver, inflation, imperialism, and subsidies to business, farmers, or veterans. His crusade for political reform and fiscal conservatism made him an icon for American conservatives of the era.[2] Cleveland won praise for his honesty, self-reliance, integrity, and commitment to the principles of classical liberalism.[3] He fought political corruption, patronage, and bossism. As a reformer, Cleveland had such prestige that the like-minded wing of the Republican Party, called "Mugwumps", largely bolted the GOP presidential ticket and swung to his support in the 1884 election.[4]

As his second administration began, disaster hit the nation when the Panic of 1893 produced a severe national depression, which Cleveland was unable to reverse. It ruined his Democratic Party, opening the way for a Republican landslide in 1894 and for the agrarian and silverite seizure of the Democratic Party in 1896. The result was a political realignment that ended the Third Party System and launched the Fourth Party System and the Progressive Era.[5]

Cleveland was a formidable policymaker, and he also drew corresponding criticism. His intervention in the Pullman Strike of 1894 to keep the railroads moving angered labor unions nationwide in addition to the party in Illinois; his support of the gold standard and opposition to Free Silver alienated the agrarian wing of the Democratic Party.[6] Critics complained that Cleveland had little imagination and seemed overwhelmed by the nation's economic disasters—depressions and strikes—in his second term.[6] Even so, his reputation for probity and good character survived the troubles of his second term. Biographer Allan Nevins wrote, "[I]n Grover Cleveland, the greatness lies in typical rather than unusual qualities. He had no endowments that thousands of men do not have. He possessed honesty, courage, firmness, independence, and common sense. But he possessed them to a degree other men do not."[7] By the end of his second term, public perception showed him to be one of the most unpopular U.S. presidents, and he was by then rejected even by most Democrats.[8] Today, Cleveland is considered by most historians to have been a successful leader, generally ranked among the upper-mid tier of American presidents.

Early life

Childhood and family history

Caldwell Presbyterian parsonage, birthplace of Grover Cleveland in Caldwell, New Jersey

Stephen Grover Cleveland was born on March 18, 1837, in Caldwell, New Jersey, to Ann (née Neal) and Richard Falley Cleveland.[9] Cleveland's father was a Congregational and Presbyterian minister who was originally from Connecticut.[10] His mother was from Baltimore and was the daughter of a bookseller.[11] On his father's side, Cleveland was descended from English ancestors, the first of the family having emigrated to Massachusetts from Cleveland, England in 1635.[12] His father's maternal grandfather, Richard Falley Jr., fought at the Battle of Bunker Hill, and was the son of an immigrant from Guernsey. On his mother's side, Cleveland was descended from Anglo-Irish Protestants and German Quakers from Philadelphia.[13] Cleveland was distantly related to General Moses Cleaveland, after whom the city of Cleveland, Ohio, was named.[14]

Cleveland, the fifth of nine children, 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. He became known as Grover in his adult life.[15] In 1841, the Cleveland family moved to Fayetteville, New York, where Grover spent much of his childhood.[16] Neighbors later described him as "full of fun and inclined to play pranks,"[17] and fond of outdoor sports.[18]

In 1850, Cleveland's father moved to Clinton, New York, to work as district secretary for the American Home Missionary Society.[19] Despite his father's dedication to his missionary work, the income was insufficient for the large family. Financial conditions forced him to remove Grover from school into a two-year mercantile apprenticeship in Fayetteville. The experience was valuable and brief, and the living conditions quite austere. Grover returned to Clinton and his schooling at the completion of the apprentice contract.[20] In 1853, when missionary work began to take a toll on his health, Cleveland's father took an assignment in Holland Patent, New York (near Utica) and the family moved again.[21] Shortly after, he died from a gastric ulcer, with Grover reputedly hearing of his father's death from a boy selling newspapers.[21]

Education and moving west

An early, undated photograph of Grover Cleveland

Cleveland received his elementary education at the Fayetteville Academy and the Clinton Liberal Academy.[22] After his father died in 1853, he again left school to help support his family. Later that year, Cleveland's brother William was hired as a teacher at the New York Institute for the Blind in New York City, and William obtained a place for Cleveland as an assistant teacher. He returned home to Holland Patent at the end of 1854, where an elder in his church offered to pay for his college education if he would promise to become a minister. Cleveland declined, and in 1855 he decided to move west.[23] He stopped first in Buffalo, New York, where his uncle, Lewis F. Allen, gave him a clerical job.[24] 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.[25] Millard Fillmore, the 13th president of the United States, had previously worked for the partnership.[26] Cleveland later took a clerkship with the firm, began to read the law, and was admitted to the New York bar in 1859.[27]

Early career and the Civil War

Cleveland worked for the Rogers firm for three years, then left in 1862 to start his own practice.[28] In January 1863, he was appointed assistant district attorney of Erie County.[29] 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.[27] Cleveland chose the latter course, paying $150 (equivalent to $3,052 in 2018) to George Benninsky, a thirty-two-year-old Polish immigrant, to serve in his place.[30] Benninsky survived the war.[31]

As a lawyer, Cleveland became known for his single-minded concentration and dedication to hard work.[32] In 1866, he successfully defended some participants in the Fenian raid, working on a pro bono basis (free of charge).[33] In 1868, Cleveland attracted professional attention for his winning defense of a libel suit against the editor of Buffalo's Commercial Advertiser.[34] During this time, Cleveland assumed a lifestyle of simplicity, taking residence in a plain boarding house; Cleveland dedicated his growing income instead to the support of his mother and younger sisters.[35] While his personal quarters were austere, Cleveland enjoyed an active social life and "the easy-going sociability of hotel-lobbies and saloons."[36] He shunned the circles of higher society of Buffalo in which his uncle's family traveled.[37]

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