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Grover Cleveland

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.


Order: 22nd President
24th President
Term of Office: March 4 , 1885 – March 4 , 1889
March 4 , 1893 – March 4 , 1897
Followed: 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
First Ladies : Rose Cleveland (sister)
Frances Cleveland (wife)
Profession : lawyer
Political party : Democrat
Vice President : Thomas A. Hendricks (1885, died in office)
Adlai E. Stevenson (1893 – 1897)

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.

Cleveland failed to act on the annexation of Hawaii.  The Hawaiian revolution of 1893 occurred shortly before he became President again.  He refused to allow a treaty of annexation to proceed.  Eager to discredit the foreign policy of President Harrison, he sent James Blount to Hawaii to investigate.  The Blount Report was the result.  Unfortunately, Blount failed to interview many of the participants in the revolt and he failed to swear in any of the witnesses. As expected, the report then blamed the prior Presidential administration for the overthrow of the Hawaiian Kingdom.  The status of Hawaii was not settled until after Cleveland left office.

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.

Supreme Court appointments

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

Significant events during presidencies

  • American Federation of Labor is created (1886)
  • Haymarket Riot (1886)
  • Wabash Case (1886)
  • Interstate Commerce Act (1887)
  • Dawes Act (1887)
  • Homestead Strike (1892)
  • Omaha Populist Convention (1892)
  • Panic of 1893
  • Wilson-Gorman Tariff (1894)
  • Coxey’s Army (1894)
  • United States v. E. C. Knight Co. (1895)

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