22nd President 1885-1889
24th President 1893-1897
Fun Fact: The White House was a very busy place during Grover
Cleveland's first term. He and the first lady would shake hands with as
many as 8,000 callers at a New Year's Day reception. Crowds entered
through the doors and the East Room windows.
Grover Cleveland was the only president to be married in the White House
to Frances Folsom in 1886--and the first to have a child born in the
White House, in 1893.
Fast Fact: Grover Cleveland was the only President elected to two
Biography: 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.
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