Grover Cleveland

From New World Encyclopedia

Stephen Grover Cleveland
Stephen Grover Cleveland
22nd President of the United States
24th President of the United States
Term of office March 4, 1885 – March 4, 1889
March 4, 1893 – March 4, 1897
Preceded by Chester A. Arthur (1885)
Benjamin Harrison (1893)
Succeeded by Benjamin Harrison (1889)
William McKinley (1897)
Date of birth March 18, 1837
Place of birth Caldwell, New Jersey
Date of death June 24, 1908
Place of death Princeton, New Jersey
Spouse Frances Folsom Cleveland
Political party Democrat

Stephen Grover Cleveland (March 18, 1837 – June 24, 1908) was the 22nd (1885–1889) and 24th (1893–1897) president of the United States, and the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms. He was the only Democrat elected to the presidency in the era of Republican political domination between 1860 and 1912, and was the first Democrat to be elected following the Civil War. His admirers praise him for his honesty, independence and integrity, and for his adherence to the principles of classical liberalism.[1] As a leader of the Bourbon Democrats, he opposed imperialism, taxes, corruption, patronage, subsidies and inflationary policies. His intervention in the Pullman Strike of 1894 in order to keep the railroads moving angered labor unions. His support for the gold standard and opposition to free silver angered the agrarian wing of the party.

Critics complained that he had little imagination and seemed overwhelmed by the nation's economic problems in his second term. He lost control of his Democratic party to the agrarians and silverites in 1896.

Youth and early political career

Cleveland was born in Caldwell, New Jersey, to Reverend Richard Cleveland and Anne Neal. He was one of nine children. His father was a Presbyterian minister, and as the church frequently transferred its ministers, the family moved many times, mainly around central and western New York State.

As a lawyer in Buffalo, he became notable for his single-minded concentration upon whatever task faced him. He was elected sheriff of Erie County, in 1870 and, while in that post, carried out at least two hangings of condemned criminals. Political opponents would later hold this against him, calling him the "Buffalo Hangman." Cleveland stated that he wished to take the responsibility for the executions himself and not pass it along to subordinates.

At age 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, with the slogan "Public Office is a Public Trust" as his trademark of office. In 1882 he was elected governor of New York.

Personal life

Grover Cleveland was the second president married while in office, and the only president married in the White House itself

In June 1886, Cleveland married Frances Folsom, the daughter of his former law partner, in the blue room in the White House. He was the second president to be married while in office, and the only president to have a wedding in the White House itself. This marriage was controversial because Cleveland was the executor of the Folsom estate and supervised Frances' upbringing. Folsom, at 21 years old, was also the youngest First Lady in U.S. history.

Presidential Campaigns

Cleveland won the presidency in the 1884 election with combined support of Democrats and reform Republicans called "Mugwumps," who denounced his opponent, Maine senator James G. Blaine, as corrupt.

Cleveland was defeated in the 1888 presidential election. Although he won a larger share of the popular vote than Republican candidate Benjamin Harrison, he received fewer electoral votes and thus lost the election.

He won the election in 1892. The primary issues for Cleveland in this campaign were reducing the tariffs on imported goods and preventing the U.S. Treasury's gold reserves from falling below an amount sufficient to allow the country's economy to continue to be driven by the price of gold and thus remain on the “gold standard.” At that time the price of gold as set by the United States Treasury Department was $20.00 per troy ounce. The price would remain constant until 1933. The agrarian, populist and silverite movements opposed the belief that American interests were best served solely by the gold standard.

Following the American Civil War, Silver was discovered in huge quantity in the Comstock Lode near Virginia City, Nevada. Supporters of freely minted silver proposed both silver and gold be used as the standards to support the United States monetary reserves. Silver was proposed to be introduced at $1 per troy ounce. The result of this policy would have been a considerable increase in the money supply and resultant inflation. Inflation was not regarded with the near-universal disdain in which it is held today. Free Silver supporters, whose ranks were swelled by many agrarian, populist, and radical organizations, favored an inflationary monetary policy on the grounds that it enabled debtors (often farmers, laborers, and industrial workers) to pay their debts off with cheaper, more readily-available dollars. Those who would have suffered under this policy were the wealthy creditors such as banks, leaseholders, and landlords, who under this theory could well afford any loss this caused them.

In the view of his party, to keep the country operating on the gold standard, Cleveland ordered the Treasury Department to sell U.S. Government bonds to New York City bankers in exchange for gold bullion. This was one of the most unpopular things Cleveland ever did, because many Americans became alarmed over the dependence of the government on a syndicate of Wall Street bankers.

Cleveland was re-elected in 1892, making him the only president in U.S. history to be elected to a second term which was not successive to the first. In 1896, his policies—coupled with the Republican Party's huge financial reserves—directly related to the Democratic Party losing control the presidency until 1912, when Woodrow Wilson was elected on a platform of reforming the Federal Reserve System. Free Silver ceased to be a major issue, although its influence could perhaps be seen 20 years after the creation of the Federal Reserve in President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's devaluation of the dollar, fixing the value of gold at $35 per troy ounce (rather than $20 per troy ounce) and partial abandonment of the gold standard. In 1933 Roosevelt also instated a ban against private ownership of gold coins and bullion as a measure to counter the Great Depression.



Cleveland's humiliation by Gorman and the sugar trust; cartoon by W. A. Rogers

Cleveland's administration might be characterized by his saying: "I have only one thing to do, and that is to do right." Cleveland himself insisted that, as president, his greatest accomplishment was blocking others' bad ideas. He 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 hundreds of private pension bills to American 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 that, too.

Cleveland started a sensational campaign against the Apache Indians in 1885. These Indians of the Southwest, headed by Chief Geronimo, were seen as the scourge of white settlers in that region. In 1886 Brigadier General Nelson A. Miles captured the Indians and the campaign was over.

Cleveland angered the railroads by ordering an investigation of western lands they held by government grant, forcing them to return 81,000,000 acres (328,000 square kilometers). He also signed the Interstate Commerce Act, the first law attempting federal regulation of the railroads.

Shortly after Cleveland's second inauguration, the Panic of 1893 struck the stock market, and he soon faced an acute economic 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. With the aid of J. P. Morgan and Wall Street, he maintained the Treasury's gold reserve.

He fought to lower the tariff in 1893-1894. The Wilson-Gorman Tariff Act introduced by Wilson and passed by the House would have made significant reforms. However, by the time the bill passed the Senate, guided by Democrat Arthur Pue Gorman of Maryland, it had more than six hundred amendments attached that nullified most of the reforms. The "Sugar Trust" in particular made changes that favored it at the expense of the consumer. It imposed an income tax of two percent to make up for revenue that would be lost by tariff reductions. Cleveland was devastated that his program had been ruined. He denounced the revised measure as a disgraceful product of "party perfidy and party dishonor," but still allowed it to become law without his signature, believing that it was better than nothing and was at the least an improvement over the McKinley tariff.

Cleveland refused to allow Eugene Debs to use the Pullman Strike to shut down most of the nation's passenger, freight and mail traffic in June 1894. He obtained an injunction in federal court, and when the strikers refused to obey it, he sent in federal troops to Chicago, Illinois and 20 other rail centers. "If it takes the entire army and navy of the United States to deliver a postcard in Chicago," he thundered, "that card will be delivered." Most governors supported Cleveland except Democrat John P. Altgeld of Illinois, who became a bitter foe in 1896.

His agrarian and silverite enemies seized control of the Democratic Party in 1896, repudiated his administration and the gold standard, and nominated William Jennings Bryan on a Silver Platform. Cleveland silently supported the National Democratic Party third party ticket that promised to defend the gold standard, limited government, and oppose protectionism. The party won only 100,000 votes in the general election just over one percent. Agrarians again nominated Bryan in 1900, but in 1904 the conservatives, with Cleveland's support, regained control of the party and nominated Alton B. Parker.

Foreign affairs

Publicly, Cleveland was a committed isolationist who had campaigned in opposition to expansion and imperialism. The president often quoted the advice of George Washington's Farewell Address in decrying alliances, and he slowed the pace of expansion that President Chester Arthur had reestablished. Cleveland refused to promote Arthur's Nicaragua canal treaty, calling it an "entangling alliance." Free trade deals (reciprocity treaties) with Mexico and several South American countries died because there was no Senate approval. Cleveland withdrew from Senate consideration the Berlin Conference treaty, which guaranteed an open door for U.S. interests in Congo.

But as journalist Fareed Zakaria argues, "While Cleveland retarded the speed and aggressiveness of U.S. foreign policy, the overall direction did not change. Historian Charles S. Campbell argues that the audiences who listened to Cleveland and Secretary of State Thomas E. Bayard's moralistic lectures ‘readily detected through the high moral tone a sharp eye for the national interest.’”

Cleveland supported Hawaiian free trade reciprocity and accepted an amendment that gave the United States a coaling and naval station in Pearl Harbor. Naval orders were placed with Republican industrialists rather than Democratic ones, but the military build up actually quickened.

In his second term, Cleveland stated that by 1893, the American navy had been used to promote American interests in Nicaragua, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Honduras, Argentina, Brazil, and Hawaii. Under Cleveland, the U.S. adopted a broad interpretation of the Monroe Doctrine that did not just simply forbid new European colonies but declared an American interest in any matter within the hemisphere Invoking the Monroe Doctrine in 1895, Cleveland forced the United Kingdom to accept arbitration of a disputed boundary in Venezuela. His administration is credited with the modernization of the United States Navy that allowed the U.S. to decisively win the Spanish-American War in 1898, one year after he left office.

In 1893, Cleveland sent former Congressman James Henderson Blount to Hawaii to investigate the overthrow of Queen Liliuokalani and the establishment of a republic. He supported Blount's scathing report; called for the restoration of Liliuokalani; and withdrew from the Senate the treaty of annexation of Hawaii. When the deposed queen announced she would execute the current government in Honolulu, Cleveland dropped the issue.

Crusade against protective tariff

In December 1887, Cleveland called on Congress to reduce high protective tariffs:

The theory of our institutions guarantees to every citizen the full enjoyment of all the fruits of his industry and enterprise, with only such deduction as may be his share toward the careful and economical maintenance of the Government which protects him... the exaction of more than this is indefensible extortion and a culpable betrayal of American fairness and justice. This wrong inflicted upon those who bear the burden of national taxation, like other wrongs, multiplies a brood of evil consequences. The public Treasury... becomes a hoarding place for money needlessly withdrawn from trade and the people's use, thus crippling our national energies, suspending our country's development, preventing investment in productive enterprise, threatening financial disturbance, and inviting schemes of public plunder.

He failed to pass the Lower Mills Tariff and made it the central issue of his losing 1888 campaign, as Republicans claimed a high tariff was needed to produce high wages, high profits, and fast economic expansion.

Women's Rights

Cleveland was a stout opponent of the women's suffrage (voting) movement. In 1905 in the Ladies Home Journal, Cleveland wrote, "Sensible and responsible women do not want to vote. The relative positions to be assumed by men and women in the working out of our civilization were assigned long ago by a higher intelligence."

Administration and Cabinet 1885-1889

Statue of Cleveland outside City Hall in Buffalo, New York
President Grover Cleveland 1885–1889
Vice President Thomas A. Hendricks 1885
None 1885–1889
Secretary of State Thomas F. Bayard 1885–1889
Secretary of the Treasury Daniel Manning 1885–1887
Charles S. Fairchild 1887–1889
Secretary of War William C. Endicott 1885–1889
Attorney General Augustus H. Garland 1885–1889
Postmaster General William F. Vilas 1885–1888
Don M. Dickinson 1888–1889
Secretary of the Navy William C. Whitney 1885–1889
Secretary of the Interior Lucius Q. C. Lamar 1885–1888
William F. Vilas 1888–1889
Secretary of Agriculture Norman Jay Colman 1889

Administration and Cabinet 1893-1897

Official White House portrait of Grover Cleveland
President Grover Cleveland 1893–1897
Vice President Adlai E. Stevenson 1893–1897
Secretary of State Walter Q. Gresham 1893–1895
Richard Olney 1895–1897
Secretary of the Treasury John G. Carlisle 1893–1897
Secretary of War Daniel S. Lamont 1893–1897
Attorney General Richard Olney 1893–1895
Judson Harmon 1895–1897
Postmaster General Wilson S. Bissell 1893–1895
William L. Wilson 1895–1897
Secretary of the Navy Hilary A. Herbert 1893–1897
Secretary of the Interior Hoke Smith 1893–1896
David R. Francis 1896–1897
Secretary of Agriculture Julius Sterling Morton 1893–1897

Significant events

  • Cleveland performed the dedication of the Statue of Liberty in front of thousands of onlookers (1886)
  • American Federation of Labor was created (1886)
  • Haymarket Riot (1886)
  • Wabash, St. Louis & Pacific Railroad Company v. Illinois (1886)
  • Interstate Commerce Act (1887)
  • Dawes Act (1887)
  • Panic of 1893
  • Cleveland withdraws a treaty for the Annexation of Hawaii, and attempts to reinstate Queen Liliuokalani (1893)
  • Cleveland withdraws his support for the queen's reinstatement after further investigation by Congress in the Morgan Report (1894)
  • Wilson-Gorman Tariff Act (1894)
  • Pullman Strike (1894)
  • Coxey's Army (1894)
  • United States v. E. C. Knight Co. (1895)

Supreme Court appointments

  • Lucius Q. C. Lamar – 1888
  • Melville Weston Fuller (Chief Justice) – 1888
  • Edward Douglass White – 1894
  • Rufus Wheeler Peckham – 1896

Two of Cleveland's nominees were rejected by the Senate.

  • William Hornblower, on January 15, 1894, by a vote of 24-30.
  • Wheeler Hazard Peckham, (the older brother of Rufus Wheeler) on February 16, 1894, by a vote of 32-41.

States admitted to the Union

  • Utah – January 4, 1896

Later life and death

Oil painting of Grover Cleveland, painted in 1899 by Anders Zorn

In 1897 Cleveland settled in Princeton, New Jersey. The former president remained a public figure, lecturing and writing and engaging in business affairs. For a time he was a trustee of Princeton University, bringing him into opposition to the school's president Woodrow Wilson.

For all his faults and limitations, Cleveland was a symbol of civic staunchness in his own day. While few regarded him as a great constructive force in public affairs, they looked to him to lead the reform movement in terms of honesty, economy, and efficient government. Cleveland performed his task so well that for his generation and later ones he was the embodiment of this type of reform.

He died in Princeton from a heart attack on June 24, 1908. He was buried in the Princeton Cemetery of the Nassau Presbyterian Church.


  • George Cleveland, the president's grandson, is now an impersonator and historical re-enactor of his famous grandfather.
  • A joke of the day had the First Lady waking in the middle of the night and whispering to Cleveland, "Wake up, Grover. I think there's a burglar in the house." Cleveland sleepily mumbled, "No, no. Perhaps in the Senate, my dear, but not in the House."
  • Because Cleveland served two non-consecutive terms, the protocol was unclear as to whether he was officially the 22nd or 24th President of the United States. A special Act of Congress resolved the issue by decreeing that he was both the 22nd and the 24th president.
  • The street on which Cleveland's summer home was located (Bourne, Massachusetts) is now called President's Road. In the location where his "Summer Whitehouse" stood, is now a scaled replica (the building burned in 1973).


  1. William L. Wilson; The Cabinet Diary of William L. Wilson, 1897

ISBN links support NWE through referral fees

Secondary sources

  • Bard, Mitchell. "Ideology and Depression Politics I: Grover Cleveland (1893-1897)." Presidential Studies Quarterly 15 (1) (1985): 77-88. New York: Center for the Study of the Presidency . ISSN 0360-4918
  • Beito, David T. and Linda Royster Beito. "Gold Democrats and the Decline of Classical Liberalism, 1896-1900." Independent Review 4 (2000): 555-575.
  • Blodgett, Geoffrey. "Ethno-cultural Realities in Presidential Patronage: Grover Cleveland's Choices." New York History: Quarterly Journal of the New York State Historical Association 81 (2) (2000): 189-210. Albany, NY: The Association . ISSN 0146-437X
  • Blodgett, Geoffrey. "The Emergence of Grover Cleveland: a Fresh Appraisal." New York History: Quarterly Journal of the New York State Historical Association 73 (2) (1992): 132-168. Albany, NY: The Association. ISSN 0146-437X
  • Dewey, Davis R. National Problems, 1880-1897. New York: Greenwood Press, 1968 (1907).
  • Doenecke, Justus. "Grover Cleveland and the Enforcement of the Civil Service Act." Hayes Historical Journal 4:3 (1984): 44-58. ISSN 0364-5924
  • Faulkner, Harold U. Politics, Reform, and Expansion, 1890-1900. New York: Harper, 1959.
  • Ford, Henry J. The Cleveland Era: A Chronicle of the New Order in Politics. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2016. ISBN 978-1533424341
  • Graff, Henry F. Grover Cleveland. New York: Times Books, 2002. ISBN 0805069232
  • Hirsch, Mark D. William C. Whitney, Modern Warwick. Hamden, CT: Shoe String Pr Inc., 1969 (original 1948). ISBN 0208007229
  • Hoffman, Karen S. "'Going Public' in the Nineteenth Century: Grover Cleveland's Repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act." Rhetoric & Public Affairs 5:1 (2002): 57-77. ISSN 1094-8392
  • Meador, Daniel J. "Lamar to the Court: Last Step to National Reunion." Supreme Court Historical Society Yearbook 1986. Washington, DC: Supreme Court Historical Society: 27-47. ISSN 0362-5249
  • McElroy, Robert. Grover Cleveland, the Man and the Statesman: An Authorized Biography. New York and London: Harper & Brothers, 1925.
  • Morgan, Howard W. From Hayes to McKinley: National Party Politics, 1877-1896. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 1969.
  • Nevins, Allan. Grover Cleveland: A Study in Courage. Norwalk, CT: Easton Press, 1932.
  • Summers, Mark W. Rum, Romanism & Rebellion: The Making of a President, 1884. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 2000. ISBN 0807848492
  • Welch, Richard E. Jr. The Presidencies of Grover Cleveland. Lawrence, KS: University Press of Kansas, 1988. ISBN 0700603557
Woodrow Wilson became president in 1912; he was a Bourbon Democrat when he wrote this favorable essay.

Primary sources

  • Cleveland, Grover. The Writings and Speeches of Grover Cleveland. New York: Cassell Publishing Company, 1892. Full text online at Google Books. Retrieved February 25, 2023
  • Cleveland, Grover. Presidential Problems. Freeport, NY: Books for Libraries Press, 1971. ISBN 083695730X. Retrieved February 25, 2023
  • Nevins, Allan (ed.). Letters of Grover Cleveland, 1850-1908. New York: Da Capo Press, 1970. ISBN 0306719827
  • Sturgis, Amy H. (ed.). Presidents from Hayes through McKinley, 1877-1901: Debating the Issues in Pro and Con Primary Documents. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2003. ISBN 0313317127
  • Wilson, William L. The Cabinet Diary of William L. Wilson, 1896-1897. Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1957.
This is the handbook of the Gold Democrats who strongly supported Cleveland and justified his policies, while opposing Bryan.

External links

All links retrieved June 20, 2024.

Preceded by:
Alexander Brush
Mayor of Buffalo
Succeeded by:
Marcus Drake
Preceded by:
Alonzo B. Cornell
Governor of New York
1883 – 1885
Succeeded by:
David B. Hill
Preceded by:
Winfield Scott Hancock
Democratic Party presidential nominee
1884 (won), 1888 (lost), 1892 (won)
Succeeded by:
William Jennings Bryan
Preceded by:
Chester A. Arthur
President of the United States
March 4, 1885 – March 3, 1889
Succeeded by:
Benjamin Harrison
Preceded by:
Benjamin Harrison
President of the United States
March 4, 1893 – March 3, 1897
Succeeded by:
William McKinley


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