The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Cleveland, (Stephen) Grover

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The Encyclopedia Americana
Cleveland, (Stephen) Grover

Edition of 1920. See also Grover Cleveland on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

CLEVELAND, (Steven) Grover, 22d President of the United States: b. Caldwell, N. J., 18 March 1837; d. Princeton, N. J., 24 June 1908. Grover was the fifth of a family of nine children born to Rev. Richard F. Cleveland, a graduate of Yale (1824) and Presbyterian clergyman, and Ann Neal, the daughter of a Baltimore merchant of Irish descent. He received a common school and academic education at Fayetteville and Clinton, N. Y., the successive residences of the family after leaving Caldwell, and was preparing for college when his father's sudden death (1853) changed his prospects entirely. To support himself and to aid in providing for the rest of the family he secured a clerical position in the New York Institution for the Blind, where his older brother William was a teacher. In 1855 he started West, but on his way stopped at Buffalo to visit an uncle, Lewis F. Allen, a stock breeder and publisher of ‘The Herd-Book of American Short-Horn Cattle.’ His uncle advised him to stay in Buffalo and employed him in the preparation of the ‘Herd-Book,’ until a position as clerk and copyist was secured in a law office, August 1855. He at once set to work with perseverance and industry to make himself useful and master the rudiments of the law, with the result that in 1859 he was made managing clerk of the firm at a salary of $600 (increased to $1,000 in 1863) and admitted to the bar. During the war, his two brothers being in the Union army, the support of his mother and sisters fell upon him. Unable to enlist, he borrowed money to pay for a substitute. In 1863 he was appointed assistant district attorney of Erie County, serving with zeal and energy. He attended every one of the 12 grand juries which met during each of the three years of his term and presented in full a majority of the cases. As the Democratic candidate for district attorney in 1865 he was defeated by his friend Lyman K. Bass. In 1869 he became a member of the law firm of Lanning, Cleveland and Folsom. Elected sheriff of Erie County (1870), he performed his duties faithfully and used his leisure in prosecuting further professional studies. At the end of his term (1873), he joined the firm of Bass, Cleveland and Bissell, acquired increasing success in practice and took a still higher position at the bar. In 1881 the citizens of Buffalo determined to check the flagrant corruption in the city government. Cleveland was elected mayor on the Democratic ticket by a majority of 3,500 though the Republican State ticket received an average majority there of 1,600. As mayor, he displayed a thorough knowledge of the laws and a clear perception of the needs and rights of the city. He insisted upon placing public interests above party claims; saved the city over $1,000,000 by preventing corrupt schemes and bargains; and won the gratitude of people and press irrespective of party. On 22 Sept. 1882 he was nominated for governor against the Republican candidate, Charles J. Folger, and elected by the unprecedented majority of over 192,000 votes. As governor he conducted a thoroughly business-like administration, making frequent use of his veto power, but his vetoes were always clearly in accord with his duty under the law. His record as mayor and governor won for him the Democratic nomination for President, 10 July 1884. The ensuing campaign was unusually bitter. Its broad distinguishing feature was the rise in the Republican party of the independent or “mugwump” movement supporting Cleveland. During the contest, discussion of the record in Congress of James G. Blaine, his Republican opponent, was met by virulent counter attacks upon Cleveland's personal character. At the election Cleveland received 219 electoral votes to 182 cast for Blaine, and was inaugurated President 4 March 1885, having resigned his governorship on 6 January. Only the briefest mention can indicate the important and difficult questions that marked his administrations. His first message recommended a reduction of the tariff, the extension of civil service reform, regulation of the presidential succession and the settlement of the fisheries dispute with Great Britain. His removals from non-political offices were less sweeping than those of any President since Jackson; of 987 bills passed by Congress up to 5 Aug. 1886 he vetoed 102, chiefly private pension bills; he won a sharp contest with the Senate over suspensions and nominations; and devoted his 1887 message entirely to the existing tariff, denouncing it as vicious and unnecessary and demanding the abolition of duties on raw materials. Defeated for re-election in 1888, he retired to the practice of law in New York city (1889–93). Re-elected in 1892, he took office in 1893 in the midst of threatening currency and financial conditions. His inaugural declared that “so far as the executive branch of the government can intervene, none of the powers with which it is invested will be withheld when their exercise is deemed necessary to maintain our national credit or avert financial disaster.” Accordingly he forced the repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act, killed the bill for coining the seignorage, maintained the treasury's gold reserve by the successive issue of government bonds and saved its credit throughout the world, despite furious opposition by large sections of his own and the Republican party favoring the free coinage of silver. He repudiated the Hawaiian annexation treaty made by President Harrison, enforced the neutrality laws during the troubles in Cuba, while firmly supporting American interests there, and insisted upon arbitration of the British-Venezuelan boundary dispute. During the Chicago strike in 1894, he effectively asserted the executive's right to interfere in State affairs in the interest of law and order. At the close of his term he settled in Princeton, N. J., where he resided till his death. He delivered an annual series of lectures on public affairs at Princeton University and wrote a number of articles on important questions with which he was required to deal while President. In 1904 he was much talked of as a candidate for a third term but emphatically declined to be so considered. In 1884 Cleveland's popular majority was 62,633; in 1888 it was 98,017; in 1892 it was 380,810.

President Cleveland's messages and other public papers will be found in Richardson's ‘Messages and Papers of the Presidents, 1789-1897’ (Vols. VIII, IX, Washington 1898). A collection of his magazine articles appeared in book form (1904) under the title ‘Presidential Problems,’ and he also published ‘Fishing and Hunting Sketches’ (1906).

Bibliography. — Campaign lives of Cleveland by Thomas W. Handford and Eugene T. Chamberlain, Wm. Dorsheimer, Pendleton King and Deshler Welch, appeared in 1884; of these Hanford-Chamberlain's is the fullest and most authentic. Consult also Foster, ‘A Century of American Diplomacy’ (New York 1900); Gilder, ‘Grover Cleveland’ (New York 1910); Henderson, ‘American Diplomatic Questions’ (New York 1901); Hensel and Parker, ‘The Life and Public Services of Grover Cleveland’ (New York 1906); McClure, ‘Our Presidents’ (New York 1905); Parker, ‘Recollections of Grover Cleveland’ (New York 1909); Rice, William Gorham, and Stetson, Francis Lynde, ‘Was New York's Vote Stolen?’ (New York 1915); “Siva,” ‘A Man of Destiny’ (New York 1885); Whittle, ‘President Cleveland’ (London 1896); Williams, ‘Mr. Cleveland: A Personal Impression’ (1909).

W. N. C. Carlton,
Librarian, Newberry Library, Chicago.
Americana 1920 Cleveland Grover.jpg


Twenty-second and Twenty-fourth President of the United States