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Cleveland, Grover(Stephen Grover Cleveland), 1837–1908, 22d (1885–89) and 24th (1893–97) President of the United States, b. Caldwell, N.J.; son of a Presbyterian clergyman. Cleveland's independence and conscientiousness in office marked him as a man of courage and personal integrity.
A lawyer in Buffalo, N.Y., he became (1882) the "veto mayor" who drove corruption from the city administration. He won the attention of Daniel ManningManning, Daniel,
1831–87, American journalist and political leader, b. Albany, N.Y. At the age of 11 he went to work for the Albany Atlas, which in 1856 was consolidated with the Argus; he became editor in 1865 and owner in 1873.
..... Click the link for more information. and the reform Democrats and was elected governor of New York. Cleveland further built his reputation as an enemy of machine politics by breaking violently with the Tammany leader, John KellyKelly, John,
1822–86, American politician, boss of Tammany Hall, b. New York City. He entered politics at an early age. At first he opposed Tammany Hall, but later (1853) joined the organization and became city alderman.
..... Click the link for more information. , and supporting the bills prepared by Theodore Roosevelt to improve the government of New York City.
By 1884 he was a national figure, and he was nominated as Democratic "clean-government" candidate for President to oppose James G. BlaineBlaine, James Gillespie,
1830–93, American politician, b. West Brownsville, Pa. Early Career
Blaine taught school and studied law before moving (1854) to Maine, where he became an influential newspaper editor.
..... Click the link for more information. . Cleveland, hated by Tammany and favored by political reformers, got the votes of many reform Republicans—the "mugwumps," who voted against their party. The campaign was notably bitter and was marked by the "Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion" speech of a Blaine supporter, which deeply offended Roman Catholics and may have swung the vote to Cleveland in the key state of New York.
Cleveland as President continued his independent and conscientious but conservative course. He did not go far enough in civil service reform to satisfy the zealots, but at the same time by keeping Republican government employees who were not "offensive partisans" he offended the Democratic spoilsmen. Cleveland was continually at odds with the Republican-controlled Senate.
The surplus revenue accumulating in the treasury largely because high Civil War tariffs were still in force fostered much "pork barrel" legislation. Cleveland vetoed such laws and argued for a lower tariff, devoting the whole of his annual message to Congress in 1887 to the question. The tariff was a major issue in the 1888 election. Cleveland received a popular majority but lost the electoral majority to his Republican opponent, Benjamin HarrisonHarrison, Benjamin,
1833–1901, 23d President of the United States (1889–93), b. North Bend, Ohio, grad. Miami Univ. (Ohio), 1852; grandson of William Henry Harrison.
..... Click the link for more information. . A romantic note in his first administration was his marriage (1886) in the White House to his former ward, Frances Folsom.
In 1889 he retired to private life as a New York City lawyer, but opposition to measures of the Republican administration, notably the McKinley Tariff Act of 1890, brought him a new following. In 1892 he was again elected President. The Panic of 1893 struck a hard blow at his administration. Though the more radical Democrats saw salvation in free coinage of silver, the independent President sought to improve the economic situation by securing repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase ActSherman Silver Purchase Act,
1890, passed by the U.S. Congress to supplant the Bland-Allison Act of 1878. It not only required the U.S. government to purchase nearly twice as much silver as before, but also added substantially to the amount of money already in circulation.
..... Click the link for more information. with the help of conservative Republicans.
Cleveland still urged lower tariffs, although the best opportunity had passed, since the treasury now had a deficit rather than a surplus. The Wilson Bill, embodying Cleveland's tariff ideas, passed the House of Representatives but was so altered by Senator A. P. GormanGorman, Arthur Pue,
1839–1906, American legislator, b. Woodstock, Md. After serving from 1869 to 1879 in the Maryland legislature, he was elected to the U.S. Senate in 1880. Gorman had by this time virtually become Democratic boss of Maryland.
..... Click the link for more information. and other protectionist Democrats that Cleveland, in disgust, refused to sign it. The rift between the President and the radical Democrats widened, especially over the gold standard, which Cleveland upheld. In the Pullman strike in 1894, Cleveland, on the grounds that the movement of U.S. mail was being halted by the strikers under Eugene V. DebsDebs, Eugene Victor,
1855–1926, American Socialist leader, b. Terre Haute, Ind. Leaving high school to work in the railroad shops in Terre Haute, he became a railroad fireman (1871) and organized (1875) a local of the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen.
..... Click the link for more information. , sent troops into the area over the protest of Gov. J. P. AltgeldAltgeld, John Peter
, 1847–1902, American politician, governor of Illinois (1892–96), b. Germany. He was taken by his immigrant parents to Ohio, where he grew up with little formal schooling.
..... Click the link for more information. of Illinois. The strike was broken by the use of federal injunctions and the arrest of the strike leaders.
In foreign affairs both of Cleveland's administrations were marked by a strong stand on the Venezuela Boundary DisputeVenezuela Boundary Dispute,
diplomatic controversy, notable for the tension caused between Great Britain and the United States during much of the 19th cent. Of long standing, the dispute concerned the boundary between Venezuela and British Guiana (now Guyana); the Venezuelan
..... Click the link for more information. , which called forth a statement greatly enlarging the scope of the Monroe Doctrine. He refused to recognize the government set up in Hawaii by a revolution that was engineered by Americans who expected speedy annexation to the United States (although he recognized the republic in 1894), and he tried to discourage support of the revolutionists in Cuba. The more radical wing of the Democrats—the Silver Democrats—got control of the party in 1896 and nominated William Jennings Bryan, repudiating Cleveland. His strong second term had put him at odds with many (he was nicknamed the Great Obstructionist), and his Presidential Problems (1904) was mainly a defense of his own attitude on some of the major issues.
See biographies by R. McElroy (1923), A. Nevins (1932), H. S. Merrill (1957), R. G. Tugwell (1968), A. Brodsky (2000), and H. G. Graff (2002); R. E. Welch, Jr., The Presidencies of Grover Cleveland (1988); C. Lachman, A Secret Life: The Lies and Scandals of President Grover Cleveland (2011).