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 due to being transferred to new churches. He died when his son was only sixteen, causing Cleveland to leave school to help his family. He later 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 becoming 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. She set trends from hairstyles to clothing choices. Her image was also used without her permission to advertise many products. 

After Cleveland died in 1908, Frances became 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. He made a name for himself fighting against corruption. In 1882, he became the mayor of Buffalo, and then the governor of New York. He made many enemies because of his acts against corruption and dishonesty which 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. However, he 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 percent of the popular vote and 55 percent of the electoral vote.

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Cleveland's 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 was fraudulent or lacked merit. In addition, he vetoed a bill that allowed disabled veterans to receive benefits no matter what caused the 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 providing 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. Unfortunately, it was not given the ability to enforce the act but it was a key first step to control 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. However, 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. However he was able to win by only 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 a 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. 

Another economic issue that occurred during Cleveland's presidency was the determination of how the US 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 the gold reserves had dwindled. He helped push the repeal of the Act through Congress. 

During this era, 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 resulting in Cleveland ordering troops in and arresting Debs and other leaders. 

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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 wrote for the Saturday Evening Post. On June 24, 1908, Cleveland died of heart failure.