Facts About Grover Cleveland

Grover Cleveland at Desk

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Grover Cleveland was born on March 18, 1837, in Caldwell, New Jersey. Although he moved around often in his youth, most of his upbringing was in New York. Known as an honest Democrat, he was both the 22nd and 24th President of the United States.

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Grover Cleveland's Nomadic Youth

Painted film portrait of Grover Cleveland
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Grover Cleveland grew up in New York. His father, Richard Falley Cleveland, was a Presbyterian minister who moved his family many times when he was transferred to new churches. He died when his son was only sixteen, leading Cleveland to leave school to help his family. He then moved to Buffalo, studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1859. 

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A Wedding in the White House

Frances Folsom Cleveland posing in library.
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When Cleveland was forty-nine, he married Frances Folsom at the White House and became the only president to do so. They had five children together. Their daughter, Esther, was the only president's child to be born in the White House. 

Frances soon became quite an influential first lady, setting trends from hairstyles to clothing choices. Her image was often used without her permission to advertise many products. After Cleveland died in 1908, Frances would be the first president's wife to remarry. 

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Grover Cleveland Was an Honest Politician

Political Cartoon Of Stevenson-Cleveland
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Cleveland became an active member of the Democratic Party in New York, making a name for himself while fighting against corruption. In 1882, he was elected as the mayor of Buffalo, and then the governor of New York. He made many enemies for his action against crime and dishonesty, and this would later hurt him when he came up for reelection. 

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The Contentious Election of 1884

Poster of Democratic Presidential and Vice Presidential Nominees of 1884

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Cleveland was nominated as the Democratic candidate for president in 1884. His opponent was Republican James Blaine. 

During the campaign, the Republicans tried to use Cleveland's past involvement with Maria C. Halpin against him. Halpin had given birth to a son in 1874 and named Cleveland as the father. He agreed to pay child support, eventually paying for him to be put into an orphanage. The Republicans used this in their fight against him, but Cleveland did not run from the charges and his honesty when dealing with this issue was well received by the voters. 

In the end, Cleveland won the election with only 49% of the popular vote and 55% of the electoral vote.

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Cleveland's Controversial Vetoes

Political Cartoon Depicting Grover Cleveland Sleeping
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When Cleveland was president, he received a number of requests from Civil War veterans for pensions. Cleveland took the time to read through each request, vetoing any that he felt were fraudulent or lacking in merit. He also vetoed a bill that would allow disabled veterans to receive benefits no matter what caused their disability. 

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The Presidential Succession Act

Washington Monument with Grover Cleveland and Thomas A. Hendricks
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When James Garfield died, an issue with presidential succession was brought to the forefront. If the vice president became the president while the Speaker of the House and the President Pro Tempore of the Senate were not in session, there would be no one to take over the presidency if the new president passed away. The Presidential Succession Act was passed and signed by Cleveland that provided for a line of succession. 

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The Interstate Commerce Commission

View Of The Interstate Commerce Commission And Labor Department In Washington, DC
The Interstate Commerce Commission in the 1940s. Frederic Lewis / Getty Images

In 1887, the Interstate Commerce Act was passed. This was the first federal regulatory agency. Its goal was to regulate interstate railroad rates. It required rates to be published, but unfortunately was not given the ability to enforce the act. Nevertheless, it was the first key step in controlling transportation corruption. 

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Cleveland Served Two Non-Consecutive Terms

Portrait of seated Grover Cleveland
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Cleveland ran for reelection in 1888, but the Tammany Hall group from New York City caused him to lose the presidency. When he ran again in 1892, they tried to keep him from winning again, but he managed to win by just ten electoral votes. This would make him the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms. 

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The Panic of 1893

Illustration depicting people rioting during the Panic Of 1893
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Soon after Cleveland became president for the second time, the Panic of 1893 occurred. This economic depression resulted in millions of unemployed Americans. Riots occurred and many turned to the government for help. Cleveland agreed with many others that the government's role was not to help people harmed by the natural lows of the economy. 

During this era of unrest, laborers increased the fight for better working conditions. On May 11, 1894, the workers at the Pullman Palace Car Company in Illinois walked out under the leadership of Eugene V. Debs. The resulting Pullman Strike became quite violent, leading Cleveland to order troops in to arrest Debs and other leaders. 

Another economic issue that occurred during Cleveland's presidency was the determination of how U.S. currency should be backed. Cleveland believed in the gold standard while others backed silver. Due to the passage of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act during Benjamin Harrison's time in office, Cleveland was concerned that gold reserves had dwindled, so he helped push the repeal of the Act through Congress. 

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Retired to Princeton

Close up portrait of Grover Cleveland in bowtie.

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After Cleveland's second term, he retired from active political life. He became a member of the board of trustees of Princeton University and continued to campaign for various Democrats. He also wrote for the Saturday Evening Post. On June 24, 1908, Cleveland died of heart failure.

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Kelly, Martin. "Facts About Grover Cleveland." ThoughtCo, Aug. 27, 2020, thoughtco.com/things-to-know-about-grover-cleveland-104692. Kelly, Martin. (2020, August 27). Facts About Grover Cleveland. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/things-to-know-about-grover-cleveland-104692 Kelly, Martin. "Facts About Grover Cleveland." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/things-to-know-about-grover-cleveland-104692 (accessed March 29, 2023).