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
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.