Stephen Grover Cleveland, known as Grover Cleveland, born March 18, 1837 in Caldwell and died June 24, 1908 in Princeton, was an American statesman, 22nd and 24th president of the United States. He is the only president, to date, to have been elected for two non-consecutive terms from 1885 to 1889 and from 1893 to 1897 and is therefore the only one to be counted twice in the count of presidents. A native of New Jersey, he rose through the ranks of local politics, becoming sheriff, then mayor of Buffalo and finally governor of New York State. He won the popular vote in the elections of 1884, 1888, and 1892 and was the only Democratic president elected during the period of Republican domination from 1860 to 1912.
Cleveland was the leader of the Bourbon Democrats who opposed high tariffs, bimetallism, inflation, imperialism and federal subsidies. His fights for political reform and fiscal conservatism made him an icon of conservatives of the time. Cleveland fought hard against political corruption and cronyism. His reputation as a reformer was such that members of the reformist wing of the Republican Party, known as mugwumps, rallied behind him and helped him win the 1884 election.
His second term coincided with the Panic of 1893, a severe depression that Cleveland was unable to reverse. It greatly weakened the Democratic Party, which was swept aside by the Republican Party in 1894 and 1896; the result was a political realignment that ushered in the Progressive Era.
Cleveland took strong positions and in return received sharp criticism. His intervention to end the Pullman strike of 1894 ulcerated the unions and the party in Illinois. His support for the gold standard and his opposition to bimetallism alienated the agrarian wing of the Democratic Party. Moreover, critics argued that he lacked imagination and was overwhelmed by the depressions and strikes of his second term. Nevertheless, his reputation for honesty and good character survived the troubles of his second term. His biographer Allan Nevins wrote: “Grover Cleveland was not gifted with extraordinary qualities. He possessed honesty, courage, firmness, independence and good sense. But he possessed them to a greater degree than others.
Stephen Grover Cleveland was born on March 18, 1837 in Caldwell, New Jersey. His father, Richard Falley Cleveland, was a Presbyterian minister from Connecticut and his mother, Ann Neal Cleveland, was the daughter of a bookseller from Baltimore, Maryland. On both his father’s and mother’s sides, Cleveland’s family had strong New England roots. His earliest paternal ancestors, from northeast England, arrived in Massachusetts in 1635. On his mother’s side, Cleveland was descended from Anglo-Irish Protestants and German Quakers from Philadelphia. He was related, albeit distantly, to Moses Cleaveland who gave his name to the city of Cleveland in Ohio.
Cleveland, the fifth of nine children, was named Stephen Grover after the first pastor of the First Presbyterian Church in Caldwell where his father went to preach at the time, but he never used the name “Stephen” as an adult. In 1841, the Cleveland family moved to Fayetteville, New York where Grover spent most of his childhood. Neighbors later described him as “energetic and fond of pranks” and an avid outdoorsman. In 1850, Cleveland’s father obtained a pastorate in Clinton and the family moved there. They moved again in 1853 to Holland Patent, near Utica, but his father died shortly after the move.
Cleveland studied at Fayetteville Academy and Clinton Liberal Academy, but after his father’s death in 1853, he left school to care for his family. Shortly thereafter, Cleveland’s brother William was hired as a teacher at the New York Institute for the Blind in New York City, and he managed to secure a position as an assistant professor for Cleveland. He returned to Holland Patent at the end of 1854 and a former member of his parish offered to pay for his education if he became a Presbyterian minister, but Cleveland declined the offer. Instead, Cleveland decided to head west in 1855. He stopped in Buffalo, where his uncle, Lewis W. Allen, offered him a position in the clergy. Allen was an influential man in Buffalo and introduced his nephew to the city’s notables, including the partners of the law firm Rogers, Bowen & Rogers. Cleveland was hired as a clerk before being admitted to the bar in 1859.
After becoming a lawyer, Cleveland worked for the Rogers firm for three years before leaving to open his own practice. In January 1863, he was appointed assistant district attorney for Erie County. With the Civil War continuing, Congress passed the Conscription Act of 1863, requiring every able-bodied man to join the army if called up or to hire a replacement. Cleveland chose this option and gave $150 (about $33,000 in 2012 dollars) to George Benninsky, a 32-year-old Polish immigrant to serve in his place. As a lawyer, Cleveland became known for his hard work and determination. In 1866, he defended some of the participants of a Fenian raid and succeeded in obtaining their acquittal. In 1868, Cleveland attracted the attention of his profession by successfully defending a libel suit against the publisher of the Commercial Advertiser, a Buffalo newspaper. At this time, Cleveland lived very simply in a boarding house, although his income would have allowed him to live much more comfortably, and he continued to support his mother and younger sisters financially. While his personal apartments and lifestyle appeared rather austere, Cleveland nevertheless enjoyed an active and full social life and enjoyed the “easy sociability of hotel lobbies and saloons.”
Political career before the presidency
Cleveland soon joined the Democratic Party. In 1865, he ran for district attorney, but narrowly lost to his friend and roommate Lyman K. Bass, the Republican candidate. Cleveland then stayed out of politics until 1870 when, with the help of his friend Oscar Folsom, he won the Democratic nomination for sheriff of Erie County. At the age of 33, Cleveland was elected by a margin of 303 votes and took office on January 1, 1871. While the position took him away from his law practice, he was reportedly paid $40,000 (about $9 million in 2012 dollars) for the two years of his term. The most famous event of his tenure was the execution of a murderer, Patrick Morrisey, convicted of killing his mother, on September 6, 1872. Cleveland, as sheriff, could either carry out the sentence himself or give ten dollars (about two thousand eight hundred dollars of 2012. Cleveland had qualms about the hanging, but chose to conduct it himself. He also had another murderer, John Gaffney, hanged on February 14, 1873.
After his term ended, Cleveland returned to his law practice and opened a law firm with his friends Lyman K. Bass and Wilson S. Bissell. Bass did not remain with the firm long, as he was elected to Congress in 1873, but Cleveland and Bissell were now at the top of Buffalo’s judicial community. Up to this point, Cleveland’s political career had been honorable, though not outstanding. As his biographer, Allan Nevins, writes, “probably no one in the country on March 4, 1881, could have foreseen that this simple Buffalo lawyer would be standing four years later in Washington taking the oath of office as President of the United States.”
By the 1870s, Buffalo’s government was increasingly corrupt with Democratic and Republican political machines organizing to divide the spoils. When, in 1881, the Republicans fielded a slate of particularly corrupt candidates, the Democrats saw an opportunity to capitalize on the votes of disappointed Republicans by putting forward a more honest candidate. Party leaders approached Cleveland and he agreed to run for mayor on the condition that he could choose his running mates. When the leading Democratic candidates were ousted, Cleveland accepted the nomination. He was elected mayor with 15,120 votes to 11,528 for his opponent, Milton C. Beebe, and took office on January 2, 1882.
During his tenure, Cleveland focused on fighting the partisan interests of political machines. He established his reputation by vetoing the city council’s proposed street cleaning bid. The contract is open to all, but the council has already chosen the most expensive bid over the cheapest because of political connections. While this kind of cronyism had previously been tolerated in Buffalo, the new mayor countered with a scathing message: “I consider this to be the most elaborate and shameless scheme to betray the interests of the people, which is far worse than wasting public funds. The board backed down and chose the lowest bid. Cleveland’s reputation as a protector of public funds and an honest politician began to spread beyond Erie County.
As Cleveland’s reputation grew, state Democratic Party officials began to see him as a possible candidate for governor. One of his admirers, Daniel Manning, campaigned for his nomination within the party. With the split in the Republican Party, 1882 was a promising year for the Democratic Party and many candidates sought the party’s nomination. The two leading Democratic candidates were Roswell P. Flower (en) and Henry W. Slocum, but neither was able to make an impression at the convention. Cleveland, in third place on the first ballot, was seen as the compromise candidate and was chosen. The Republican Party remained divided and Cleveland won the election by 535,318 votes to 342,464 for Republican candidate Charles J. Folger. Cleveland’s lead was, at the time, the largest in New York State history, and the Democrats also won a majority in both houses of the legislature.
Continuing his fight against wasteful spending, Cleveland uses his veto power eight times during his first two months in office. The first to attract attention was his veto of a bill to reduce New York City’s subway fares by five cents. The law had broad popular support because the trains’ owner, Jay Gould, was unpopular and his fare increases were widely criticized. Cleveland, however, saw the law as unfair because Gould had taken over the railroads when they were bankrupt and had restored the system to profitability. Moreover, Cleveland considered that changing the agreement with Gould would violate the Contract Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Despite the initial popularity of the measure, newspapers congratulated Cleveland on his decision. Theodore Roosevelt, then a member of the New York legislature, said he had initially voted for the bill knowing it was wrong because he wanted to punish the unscrupulous railroad barons. After the Cleveland veto, Roosevelt changed his mind, as did many other legislators, and the veto was not overridden.
Cleveland’s outspoken and honest ways won him widespread popular support, but he also drew opposition from several factions in his own party, particularly from the Tammany Hall organization in New York. Tammany Hall and its boss, John Kelly, had not supported Cleveland for governor and liked him even less when Cleveland openly opposed the re-election of one of its senators. While he lost the support of Tammany Hall, Cleveland gained the support of Theodore Roosevelt and the reform wing of the Republican Party, who helped Cleveland pass several pieces of legislation reforming local government.
Presidential election of 1884
In 1880, the Republicans held their convention in Chicago, Illinois, and chose former Speaker of the House James G. Blaine of Maine as their nominee after four rounds. Blaine of Maine as their nominee after four rounds. The nomination disappointed many Republicans who saw Blaine as ambitious and immoral. Democratic Party leaders saw the choice as an opportunity to return to the White House for the first time since 1856 if the right candidate could be found.
Among the Democrats, Samuel J. Tilden was initially the favourite, as he had been the party’s candidate in the disputed election of 1876. Tilden was in poor health, however, and when he declined to be the nominee, his supporters turned to the other candidates. Cleveland was among the leading candidates, but Thomas F. Bayard of Delaware, Allen G. Thurman of Ohio, Samuel F. Miller of Iowa and Benjamin F. Butler of Massachusetts and many local favorites could also win. Each of these candidates had a handicap, however; Bayard had campaigned for secession in 1861, which made him unacceptable to Northerners; similarly, Butler was very unpopular throughout the South because of his actions in the Civil War; Thurman was generally well liked, but he was old and ill and his views on the monetary question were unknown. Cleveland also had his detractors, such as Tammany Hall, but their nature made him all the more likeable. Cleveland eventually came out on top in the first round with 392 of 829 votes. On the second ballot, Tammany Hall threw his support to Butler, but most delegates rallied behind Cleveland and he was chosen. Thomas A. Hendricks of Indiana was nominated to run for vice president.
Corruption in politics was the central issue in the 1884 election, and Cleveland’s reputation for honesty was the Democrats’ most decisive asset. Reform Republicans, known as mugwumps, denounced Blaine’s corruption and turned to Cleveland. The mugwumps, which included Carl Schurz and Henry Ward Beecher, were more concerned with ideals than partisan issues and hoped that Cleveland could endorse their crusade for administrative reform and government efficiency. While the Democrats gained the support of the Mugwumps, they lost the support of the Greenback Party, led by former Democrat Benjamin Butler.
The campaign focuses on the personalities of the candidates, as each side tries to smear the reputation of the other. Cleveland supporters revived old rumors that Blaine had used his influence to favor the Little Rock & Fort Smith Railroad and the Northern Pacific Railway so that he could sell his stock in both companies. Although these rumors date back eight years, the discovery of Blaine’s correspondence makes his explanations less credible. On one of the most incriminating of these missives, Blaine had written “burn this letter,” giving the Democrats the last line of their rallying cry “Blaine, Blaine, James G. Blaine, the continental liar from the state of Maine, Burn this letter!”.
To counter Cleveland’s image of moral superiority, his opponents report that he had a child while working as a lawyer in Buffalo. The mocking phrase Ma, Ma, where’s my Pa? became the unofficial slogan of his opponents. Cleveland’s instructions to his campaign team during the attacks was to “tell the truth. He admitted that he had paid a pension to Maria Crofts Halpin in 1874 who claimed that Cleveland was the father of her son, Oscar Folsom Cleveland. Halpin was involved in several sentimental affairs at this time, including one with Cleveland’s friend and partner, Oscar Folsom. Cleveland never knew who the father was, and it is suggested that he took responsibility because he was the only bachelor in the group.
Both candidates see the states of New York, New Jersey, Indiana and Connecticut as crucial to winning the election. In New York, Tammany Hall decided it was better to support a Democrat they didn’t like than a Republican who would do nothing for them. Blaine hoped that he would win the support of Irish-Americans, traditionally loyal to the Democrats; indeed, his mother was an Irish Catholic and he had supported the Irish National Land League when he was Secretary of State. The Irish, an important group in these swing states, did indeed draw closer to Blaine until one of his supporters, Samuel D. Burchard, declared that the Democrats were the party of “Rum, Romanism and Rebellion. The Democrats used this phrase and Cleveland narrowly won the four decisive states, including New York, by a thousand votes. The popular vote was close and Cleveland had only a quarter-point lead over his opponent, but he won 219 electoral votes to Blaine’s 182. After this victory, the phrase “Ma, Ma…” is answered with “Gone to the White House. Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!”.
President of the United States
Shortly after taking office, Cleveland must appoint officials to all government positions for which the president has the power of appointment. These positions were usually filled on a spoils system, but Cleveland announced that he would not fire any Republicans who did their jobs well, nor would he appoint anyone solely on the basis of their Democratic Party affiliation. He also took the opportunity to reduce the number of federal employees because the departments were full of political opportunists. As a result of these actions, his fellow Democrats resented being left out of the spoils, and Cleveland began replacing most of the Republican administrators. While some of his decisions were then influenced by partisan considerations, most of Cleveland’s appointments were made on the basis of merit.
Cleveland reformed other areas of government. In 1887, he signed legislation creating the Interstate Commerce Commission to regulate transportation. With his Secretary of the Navy, William C. Whitney, he began to modernize the U.S. Navy and cancelled contracts to build less efficient ships. Cleveland angered railroad investors by ordering an investigation of the western lands they had received from the government. Secretary of the Interior Lucius Q.C. Lamar argued that the rights to these lands should be returned to the public because the railroads had not extended their lines in accordance with the agreements. The land was thus confiscated and the government recovered approximately 330,000 square kilometres.
Cleveland faces a Republican-dominated Senate and often uses its veto power. He vetoed hundreds of pension applications for Civil War veterans on the grounds that, if those applications had been rejected by the Department of Veterans Affairs, Congress should not overrule them. When Congress, urged on by the veterans’ association, passed a bill granting pensions for all disabilities not caused by the war, Cleveland also vetoed it. He used this instrument more than any president before him. In 1887, he famously vetoed a bill concerning agriculture in Texas. After a drought wiped out crops in many Texas counties, Congress appropriates $10,000 (about thirteen million 2012 dollars) to buy seeds for those farmers. Cleveland blocks the expenditure. In his comment to the veto, he expresses his theory of limited government:
“I see no justification for such an expenditure in the Constitution, and I do not believe that the power and duty of a government is to extend support to individual sufferings which have no connection with public service. The widespread tendency to despise the limited mission of this power must, I think, be unflinchingly resisted. To this end, the lesson must be taught that if the people support the government, the government must not support the people. Our fellow citizens in need can always count on the friendship and charity of their neighbors. It has been repeatedly demonstrated that federal aid, in these cases, encourages people to rely on the government at the expense of maintaining their strength of character.”
One of the most explosive issues of the 1880s was whether money should be based on gold and silver or only on gold. The issue crossed partisan lines, as Western Republicans and Southern Democrats jointly called for the coinage of silver, while Northeastern congressmen strongly advocated the gold standard. Not minting silver money allowed for greater stability of the dollar; this satisfied the business community, but Western farmers complained of the lack of liquidity. Since silver was worth less than its legal equivalent in gold, taxpayers paid taxes in silver, while international creditors demanded payment in gold, thus depleting the country’s gold reserves.
Cleveland and Treasury Secretary Daniel Manning were strong supporters of the gold standard and tried to reduce the amount of money the government had to mint under the Bland-Allison Act of 1878. This angered Westerners and Southerners who argued for a deflation of the currency to help the poorest. In return, one of the strongest proponents of bimetallism, Richard P. Bland, introduced legislation in 1886 that required the government to mint unlimited amounts of silver in order to bring about inflation. Bland’s legislation was defeated, as was another bill that would have repealed any requirement to mint silver. The result was a continuation of the status quo and a postponement of the resolution of the monetary question.
Another sensitive issue of the period was protectionist tariffs. The issue had not been the central focus of the campaign, and Cleveland’s view was that of most Democrats: tariffs should be reduced. Republicans generally favoured high tariffs to protect American industries. U.S. tariffs had been high since the Civil War, and by 1880 they were making so much money that the federal government was running a surplus.
In 1886, a bill to reduce these rights was narrowly defeated in the House of Representatives. The tariff issue was a key issue in the general election, and the protectionists won many seats. Cleveland continued to advocate tariff reform, however. As the budget surplus grew, Cleveland and the reformers proposed a tariff tax on financial products only. His speech to Congress in 1887 pointed out the injustice of taking more money from the people than the government needed to finance its projects. Republicans and protectionist Democrats in the North, such as Samuel J. Randall, believed that without high tariffs, American industries would be threatened by European imports and continued to oppose the reformers’ efforts. Roger Q. Mills, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, proposed legislation that would reduce the tariff from 47 percent to 40 percent. After several important exceptions imposed by Cleveland and its allies, the bill passed the House. However, the Senate failed to reach agreement and the bill failed in the conference committee. The issue of fees continued to be debated until the presidential election of 1888.
Cleveland is a staunch non-interventionist who has campaigned against expansion and imperialism. He refused to defend the Nicaragua Canal Treaty signed by the previous administration and was generally less expansionist in international relations. Secretary of State Thomas F. Bayard, negotiated with Joseph Chamberlain of the United Kingdom on the issue of fishing rights in Canadian waters and reached a compromise despite opposition from New England Republican senators. Cleveland also opposed Senate consideration of the Berlin Conference, which guaranteed American interests in the Congo Basin.
Cleveland, like a growing number of Northerners (and virtually all Southerners) viewed Reconstruction as a failure and was reluctant to use federal powers to enforce the 15th Amendment to the Constitution, which guaranteed voting rights for African Americans. Cleveland initially did not appoint any blacks to public office, but allowed Frederick Douglass to remain as a federal notary in Washington. When Douglass resigned, Cleveland appointed another black man to replace him.
Although Cleveland had condemned the attacks on Chinese immigrants, he considered them unwilling to assimilate into white society. Secretary of State Thomas F. Bayard negotiated an extension of the Chinese Exclusion Act and Cleveland lobbied Congress to pass the Scott Act, authored by Representative William L. Scott, which prevented Chinese immigrants from returning to the United States if they left. The legislation easily passed both houses of Congress, and Cleveland signed the legislation on October 1, 1888.
Cleveland saw Native Americans as custodians of the state and stated in his inaugural address that “this custodianship implies, on our part, efforts to improve their living conditions and enforce their rights.” He promoted the idea of cultural assimilation and passed the Dawes Act, which allowed for the distribution of Native American lands to individual tribal members, as the federal government had previously held them on behalf of the tribes. While Native American representatives readily accepted the legislation, most Native Americans disapproved. Cleveland believed that the Dawes Act would lift Native Americans out of poverty and encourage their assimilation, but its ultimate effect was to weaken tribal leaders and allow tribal members to sell their land to speculators and keep the money.
The month before Cleveland’s inauguration in 1885, President Arthur had signed an executive order opening up 16,000 square miles of Winnebago land on the Crow Creek Indian Reservation in Dakota Territory for settlement. Tens of thousands of settlers had gathered on the border of the territory and were preparing to take control. Viewing Arthur’s decision as a violation of the agreements with the tribes, Cleveland rescinded the order on April 17, ordered the settlers to leave the Native American territory, and deployed General Philip Sheridan’s troops to enforce the treaties.
Cleveland was a bachelor when he entered the White House and his sister Rose Cleveland acted as first lady for the first two years of his term. In 1885, the daughter of his friend Oscar Folsom visited him in Washington. Frances Folsom was a student at Wells College and when she returned to her university, Cleveland received permission from her mother to write to her and on June 2, 1886, Cleveland married Frances in the Blue Room of the White House. Cleveland was the second president, after John Tyler in 1843, to marry in office and the only one to have a White House wedding. This marriage was unusual, as Cleveland was the executor of Oscar Folsom’s will and had overseen the education of Frances, whom he was twenty-seven years older, yet the public was not adverse to the union. At the age of twenty-one, Frances became the youngest first lady in the history of the United States and the public was quickly won over by her personality and beauty. The presidential couple has five children: Ruth (1891-1904), Esther (1893-1980), Marion (1895-1977), Richard Folsom (1897-1974) and Francis Grover (1903-1995). The British philosopher Philippa Foot is their granddaughter.
During his first term, Cleveland appointed two justices to the Supreme Court. When Associate Justice William B. Woods died in 1887, Cleveland appointed Lucius Lamar, who was a former senator from Mississippi and had been a member of his cabinet, as Secretary of the Interior. While Lamar was well liked as a senator, his involvement in the Confederacy two decades earlier caused many Republicans to vote against him. Nevertheless, his nomination was confirmed by a narrow margin. Chief Justice Morrison Waite died a few months later and Cleveland nominated Melville Fuller on April 30, 1888. Cleveland had previously offered Fuller an appointment to the Civil Service Commission, but Fuller declined the offer and continued his legal practice in Chicago. Fuller accepted the nomination to the Supreme Court, and the Senate Judiciary Committee spent several months reviewing the little-known nominee’s record before accepting him.
The debate over tariff reduction continued into the 1888 presidential campaign. Republicans nominated Benjamin Harrison of Indiana to run for president and Levi Morton of New York for vice president. Cleveland was easily chosen at the Democratic convention in St. Louis, Missouri. With Vice President Thomas A. Hendricks dead in 1885, the Democrats chose Allen G. Thurman of Ohio to be Cleveland’s running mate. The Republicans campaigned on the tariff issue and won the votes of protectionists in the important northern industrial states. In addition, New York Democrats remained divided over the gubernatorial candidacy of David B. Hill, which weakened support for Cleveland in that crucial state.
As in 1884, the election was fought in the swing states of New York, New Jersey, Indiana and Connecticut. However, unlike in 1884, when Cleveland had won all four states, it won only two, losing New York by only 14,373 votes. The Republicans also won Indiana, mainly through fraud. The Republican victory in that state, where Cleveland had lost by 2,348 votes, was enough to propel Harrison to the White House despite a popular vote overwhelmingly in favor of Cleveland. He continued as president until the end of his term and began to prepare for his return to private life.
When Frances Cleveland left the White House, she told one of the staffers, “I want you to take great care of all the furniture and decorations in the House, because I want everything to be just like it was when we came back. When asked when she would return, she replied, “We’ll be back in four years to the day. The couple moved to New York City where Cleveland worked at the law firm of Bangs, Stetson, Tracy and MacVeigh. His salary was not very high, but his lifestyle was not particularly extravagant. The couple’s first child, Ruth, was born in 1891 while they were living in New York.
The Harrison administration worked with Congress to pass the McKinley Tariff and the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, two policies that Cleveland considered dangerous to the nation’s economic health. Initially, he refrained from criticizing his successor, but in 1891, Cleveland broke his silence and published his concerns in an open letter to a meeting of reformers in New York. The silver letter brought Cleveland back into the spotlight as the 1892 election approached.
His stature as a former president of Cleveland and his recent stance on the monetary question made him a favorite for the 1892 Democratic convention. His main opponent was David B. Hill, who had become a senator from New York. Hill brought together Cleveland’s opponents such as bimetallists, Tammany Hall members and protectionists, but he was unable to form a broad enough coalition to prevent Cleveland’s nomination on the first ballot. For vice president, the delegates chose to balance the ticket with Adlai Ewing Stevenson of Illinois, a bimetallist supporter. Although Cleveland preferred Isaac P. Gray (en) of Indiana to run for vice president, he accepted the convention’s choice. As an advocate of greenbacks and inflation to support people in rural districts, Stevenson balanced the ticket led by Cleveland, the supporter of the gold standard and metal money.
The Republicans ran Benjamin Harrison again, and the 1892 election was a repeat of the 1888 election. Unlike the troubled and contentious elections of 1876, 1884, and 1888, the election of 1892 was, in the words of Cleveland biographer Allan Nevins, “the most honest, calm, and honorable of the post-war generation.” At least in part, because Caroline Harrison, the president’s wife, suffered from tuberculosis. Harrison hardly campaigned at all, and when his wife died two weeks before Election Day, Cleveland and the other candidates also stopped campaigning. The tariff issue had worked in favour of the Republicans in 1888, but the various changes over the next four years had made imported goods so expensive that many voters wanted reform. Many Westerners, traditionally Republicans, rallied behind the new Populist Party candidate, James B. Weaver, who promised bimetallism, generous pensions for veterans and the eight-hour day. Eventually, the Tammany Hall Democrats rallied to the Democratic ticket, allowing a united Democratic Party to win New York State. Cleveland won the popular vote for the third consecutive time and had a comfortable lead in the Electoral College.
Shortly after the start of Cleveland’s second term, the Panic of 1893 sent the stock market plummeting and the president faced a severe economic crisis. The panic was compounded by the shortage of gold that had resulted from the massive minting of silver, and Cleveland called for a quick meeting of Congress to address the problem. The currency debate was still hot and the effects of the crisis had pushed most moderates closer to the opponents of the free coinage imposed by the Sherman Silver Purchase Act. The House of Representatives still spent two weeks debating the issue before repealing it by a large majority. The debate was also tense in the Senate, but Cleveland managed to muster a majority of 48 votes to 37. With the repeal, the Treasury’s gold reserves were reduced to an acceptable level. At the time, this decision seemed to be a minor defeat for the supporters of bimetallism, but it effectively heralded the end of the use of silver as the basis of the American currency.
After reforming the Harrison administration’s monetary policy, Cleveland sought to reverse the effects of the McKinley Tariff. What became the Wilson-Gorman Tariff Act was first proposed by Virginia Representative William L. Wilson in December 1893. After much debate, the bill passed the House with a large majority. The act reduced tariffs, particularly on raw materials, and the loss of revenue was offset by a 2% income tax on incomes over $4,000 (about $800,000 in 2012).
The bill was then considered in the Senate, where the opposition was stronger. Many Democratic senators, led by Arthur Pue Gorman (en) of Maryland, wanted more protections for their states’ industries than the Wilson Act proposed. Others, such as Morgan and Hill, objected in part because of a personal enmity with Cleveland. By the time the bill was voted on, more than six hundred amendments had been added that had the effect of nullifying most of the reforms. The income tax provision of the Wilson-Gorman Act was ruled partially unconstitutional in 1895 by the Supreme Court in Pollock v. Farmers’ Loan & Trust Co. The American Sugar Refining Company, in particular, lobbied for changes that favored it at the expense of the consumer. Cleveland was unhappy and denounced the amendments as the despicable result of business and financial control of the Senate. However, even so, it was an improvement over the McKinley Tariff and Cleveland approved the text.
The Panic of 1893 had affected working conditions throughout the United States, and the victory of the gold standard supporters had angered Western workers. A group of workers, led by Jacob S. Coxey, began marching to Washington to protest Cleveland’s policies. This group, known as Coxey’s Army, demanded the initiation of a road-building program to give work to the unemployed and currency inflation to help farmers pay their debts. By the time it arrived in Washington, the group was down to a few hundred members and they were arrested the next day for marching on the Capitol lawn. The Coxey’s Army was never a threat to the government, but it did illustrate a growing discontent among the American people with economic policy.
The Pullman strike has a far greater impact than the Coxey’s Army. In Chicago, a strike broke out at the Pullman Company to demand higher wages and twelve-hour workdays. Supporting strikes quickly erupted, led by American Railway Union leader Eugene V. Debs. By June 1894, one hundred and twenty-five thousand railroad workers were on strike and commerce was paralyzed. Since the railroads were carrying the mail and many of the affected lines were on the verge of bankruptcy, Cleveland felt a federal solution was necessary. He sought an injunction in federal court and, when the strikers refused to return to work, he sent the army to Chicago and twenty other railroad centers and allowed the railroads to form their own private militias. He declared that if he had to use the U.S. Army and Navy to get a postcard to Chicago, he would do so. Most governors supported Cleveland, except for Democrat John Peter Altgeld of Illinois, who became a vocal opponent of the president. The use of the army was welcomed by newspapers of both parties, but it radicalized the attitude of the unions toward the Cleveland administration. On July 6, thirteen workers were killed and 53 wounded when the militia opened fire on them. Many unionists, including Eugene Victor Debs, were arrested.
In the congressional elections of 1894, the Republicans won a very large victory and took control of the House of Representatives. In addition, Cleveland had to contend with his Democratic opponents, who had gained the upper hand in the party and were challenging his authority and reforms.
Upon taking office, Cleveland faced the issue of annexing Hawaii. During his first term, he had supported trade with the archipelago and had agreed to an amendment that gave the United States a naval base at Pearl Harbor. During Harrison’s term, Honolulu businessmen accused Queen Liliʻuokalani of tyranny and overthrew her in early 1893. They set up a republican government, led by Sanford B. Dole, and applied to join the United States. The Harrison administration had quickly accepted the annexation proposal and it was passed by the House of Representatives. However, five days after taking office, Cleveland withdrew the text before it was considered by the Senate, because it was revealed, on the basis of the Blount report, that American soldiers had participated in the overthrow of the monarchy. The president therefore wanted to restore the old government and sent former Representative James H. Blount to Hawaii to assess the situation. Blount reported that the population was hostile to annexation. However, Liliuokalani refused to grant amnesty as a condition of his restoration and declared that he would exile or execute members of the Republican government. So Dole refused to return to power. In December 1893, the issue was still pending and Cleveland appealed to Congress. In his message, Cleveland rejected the idea of annexation and encouraged Congress to continue the tradition of American non-intervention. The Senate, under Democratic control but hostile to Cleveland, produced the Morgan Report, which contradicted Blount’s report by arguing that the U.S. armed forces had played no role and that the coup was a strictly Hawaiian affair. Cleveland then ceased his discussions with the Queen and recognized the new republic of Hawaii. The archipelago finally joined the United States in 1898 with the status of a territory.
Cleveland adopted a broad interpretation of the Monroe Doctrine, which not only prevented the establishment of new European colonies, but also argued that the United States had the right to intervene in any crisis in the Western Hemisphere. When the United Kingdom and Venezuela argued over the border between the latter and British Guiana, Cleveland and Secretary of State Richard Olney asked to participate in the discussions. British Prime Minister Lord Salisbury and British Ambassador to Washington Julian Pauncefote realize the importance of the dispute to the United States and agree to American mediation. A tribunal convened in Paris in 1898 to arbitrate the dispute and awarded most of the disputed territory to British Guiana. By standing with the South American nations against a colonial power, Cleveland improved relations between the United States and its southern neighbors, but the cordial manner in which the negotiations were conducted also improved relations with Britain.
During discussions about the repeal of bimetallism in 1893, Cleveland consults White House physician Dr. O’Reilly about a pain in the mouth and an ulcer with a granular surface on the left side of the palate. Samples are sent anonymously to the Army Medical Corps, which diagnoses a nonmalignant cancerous tumor.
Because of the economic crisis that the country was going through, Cleveland decided to have a secret operation to avoid a panic in the markets. The operation took place on July 1 to allow Cleveland to recover before the resumption of the parliamentary session. Under the pretext of a cruise, the president and his doctor, Joseph Bryant, went to New York and the operation was performed on the yacht Oneida off Long Island. The surgery is performed through Cleveland’s mouth to avoid scarring. The team sedates Cleveland with a mixture of nitrous oxide and ether and removes the affected parts of the left upper jaw and palate. The size of the tumor and the extent of the surgery severely damaged the president’s mouth, and in a second operation, an orthodontist attaches a prosthesis that corrects his speech and restores his appearance. A cover story about the removal of two teeth keeps the investigative press at bay. Even when a newspaper published details of the actual operation, the participating surgeons downplayed it. It was not until 1917 that one of the participants in the operation, William W. Keen, wrote a detailed article about President Cleveland’s operation.
Several doctors, including Keen, suggested after Cleveland’s death that the tumor was a carcinoma. Other possibilities included ameloblastoma or a benign salivary gland tumor. In the 1980s, analyses finally confirmed that the tumor was a verrucous carcinoma, a benign cancer of the epithelium with little potential for metastasis.
Tensions with the Senate prevented Cleveland from appointing his preferred Supreme Court nominees in his second term. In 1893, after the death of Samuel Blatchford, Cleveland appointed William B. Hornblower to replace him. Hornblower, then head of the New York Court of Appeals, was considered for the position, but his campaign against the New York political machine had pitted him against Senator David B. Hill. In addition, Cleveland had not consulted senators before making his nomination. As a result, the Senate rejected Hornblower’s nomination on January 15, 1894.
Cleveland continued to defy the Senate by nominating Wheeler H. Peckham, another New York lawyer who had opposed political machinery in the state. Hill used all his influence to block Peckham’s confirmation, and on February 16, 1894, the Senate rejected the nomination. Reformers urged Cleveland to continue the fight against Hill and nominate Frederic R. Coudert, but Cleveland preferred a less controversial candidate in Senator Edward D. White (en) of Louisiana, whose nomination was accepted unanimously. In 1896, a new vacancy caused by the death of Howell Edmunds Jackson prompted Cleveland to consider Hornblower again, but he declined the nomination. Instead, Cleveland nominated Rufus W. Peckham, the brother of Wheeler H. Peckham, and the choice was quickly accepted by the Senate.
Cleveland appoints a total of 45 federal judges. In addition to his four appointments to the Supreme Court, he appointed two judges to the circuit courts, nine to the federal courts of appeals and 30 to the district courts. Since Cleveland was president twice before and after Congress eliminated the circuit courts in favor of the courts of appeals, he was one of only two presidents to appoint judges to both courts. The other, Benjamin Harrison, was in office when the change was made. Thus, all of Cleveland’s appointments to the circuit courts were made in his first term and all of his appointments to the courts of appeals were made in his second term.
In Cleveland’s first term, no new states had been admitted for more than a decade because of opposition from Democratic congressmen who believed they would be dominated by Republicans. Upon taking office, Harrison and the Republican Congress admitted six new states, North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, Washington, Idaho and Wyoming, which all sent Republican delegations to Congress. Utah was considered a Democrat and this, combined with uncertainties about Mormon polygamy (which had ceased in 1890), excluded it from the new states. When Cleveland won election to a second term, the Democratic majority in Congress accepted Utah into the Union on January 4, 1896.
Agrarian and bimetallic opponents took control of the Democratic Party in 1896 and nominated William Jennings Bryan for the 1896 presidential election. Cleveland silently supported the National Democratic Party, which promised to defend the gold standard and oppose high tariffs, but he refused to seek a third term. Republican candidate William McKinley won the election by a wide margin over Bryan. The agrarians ran again for Bryan in 1900, but in 1904 the conservatives, backed by Cleveland, regained control of the Democratic Party and appointed Alton B. Parker.
After leaving the White House on March 4, 1897, Cleveland retired to his estate at Westland Mansion in Princeton, New Jersey, and served for a time as a trustee of Princeton University. President Theodore Roosevelt occasionally sought his advice, but he was financially unable to accept the chairmanship of the commission charged with settling the miners’ strike of 1902. Cleveland was always vocal on political issues, and in 1905 he wrote in The Ladies Home Journal that “responsible and sensible women do not vote. The relative positions assumed by men and women in the workings of our civilization were assigned long ago by a higher intelligence.
Cleveland’s health had been declining for several years, and in 1907 he became seriously ill. He died of a heart attack in June 1908. His last words were, “I tried so hard to do well. He is buried in Princeton Cemetery.
During his first term, Cleveland sought a residence to escape the summer heat of Washington, but he needed to stay close to the capital. Acting in secret, he rented a house, Oak View (or Oak Hill) in Washington Heights, which he bought in 1886. Although he sold it when he left the White House (in 1889), the area became known as Cleveland Park and still bears that name today.
The city of Cleveland in Mississippi and the Cleveland volcano in Alaska were named in his honor. Cleveland’s portrait was printed on the $20 bill from 1914 to 1928, and on the $1,000 bill of the 1928 and 1934 series (which is still legal tender). Because he was the 22nd and 24th president, he was depicted on two presidential dollar series coins issued in 2012.
- Grover Cleveland
- Grover Cleveland
- (en) « Grover Cleveland | Biography & Facts », sur Encyclopedia Britannica (consulté le 20 mars 2020)
- a et b Nevins 1932, p. 8-10.
- a et b Graff 2002, p. 3-4.
- Blum 1993, p. 527
- ^ a b Nevins, Cleveland, p. 10
- ^ a b (EN) Henry Graff, Grover Cleveland, New York, Times Books, 2002, p. 3
- Blum, 527
- Jeffers, 8–12; Nevins, 4–5; Beito and Beito