(Stephen) Grover Cleveland was born on March 18, 1837, in Caldwell, New Jersey, the son of a Presbyterian minister. The family moved frequently, making a regular education difficult. Cleveland became the sole support of his mother upon the death of his father in 1853; formal schooling ended.
Cleveland clerked for a law firm in Buffalo, New York, and was admitted to the bar in 1859. At this time he began his long association with the Democratic Party. He was drafted during the Civil War, but in accordance with existing law was able to hire a substitute; political opponents would later make an issue of his lack of service. In 1863, he became the assistant district attorney for Erie County; seven years later he was elected county sheriff.
In 1881, Cleveland began one of the most rapid and dramatic ascents to national prominence of any American politician. He was elected mayor of Buffalo and soon gained the nickname, "veto mayor." His practice of closely studying appropriation measures and vetoing those he felt to be corrupt or wasteful made him a hugely popular figure. In 1882, Cleveland was nominated for governor of New York State and was a surprising winner, given that he lacked support from the Democratic power brokers at Tammany Hall. His continued use of the veto made him immensely popular in the state and also generated his national reputation.
Cleveland, riding the crest of reform popularity, was named the Democratic standard bearer in the Election of 1884. A bitter campaign ended in a narrow victory for the Democrats.
The first Cleveland administration was marked by a host of reform issues, highlighted by the creation of the Interstate Commerce Commission and the thwarting of the G.A.R. on pension matters. Economic issues also played prominently, particularly the currency question, the ongoing tariff struggle and emerging labor strife.
Grover Cleveland sought to remain in office in the Election of 1888, a referendum on the tariff question. Despite his general popularity, the incumbent lost to Republican Benjamin Harrison. The outgoing president turned to the practice of law in New York City; he closely followed national affairs and was outspokenly critical of the McKinley Tariff of 1890.
Economic issues returned Cleveland to office in the Election of 1892 in a resounding defeat of the incumbent Harrison and James B. Weaver of the Populist Party. The second administration, however, was a difficult one. The Panic of 1893 and the resulting depression found Cleveland supporting a simple remedy Â the repeal of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890. The president's lack of involvement weakened his popular appeal; when he did act by collaborating with the hated robber baron J.P. Morgan, Cleveland's popularity plummeted further. The erosion of support continued in the wake of Cleveland's pro-management actions during the Pullman Strike.
In foreign affairs, Grover Cleveland opposed annexing Hawaii, forced Britain to accept a negotiated settlement in a boundary dispute between British Guiana and Venezuela and opposed open support for anti-Spanish rebels in Cuba.
Cleveland desired a third term in the Election of 1896, but he had lost control of the party to the Silver Democrats and William Jennings Bryan.
Retiring to Princeton, New Jersey, Grover Cleveland spent his remaining years as a lecturer on public matters and as a trustee of the university.
Grover Cleveland was the only American to have won the presidency, lost it, then regained office. He was the first Democrat to be elected president after the Civil War, and was clearly the most conservative and pro-business member of his party to hold the office. Cleveland is regarded by most historians as being an honest politician in an age of corruption.
---- Selected Quotes ----
Quotes by Grover Cleveland.
Regarding American Labor Movement
The laboring classes constitute the main part of our population. They should be protected in their efforts peaceably to assert their rights when endangered by aggregated capital, and all statutes on this subject should recognize the care of the State for honest toil, and be framed with a view of improving the condition of the workingman.
Accepting the Democratic nomination for New York governor, 1882
What is the use of being elected or re-elected unless you stand for something?
Quotes regarding Grover Cleveland.
By H. Paul Jeffers
Grover Cleveland declined to participate in character attacks on Blaine. When presented with papers which purported to be extremely damaging to Blaine, he grabbed them, tore them up, flung the shreds into the fire, and decreed, "The other side can have a monopoly of all the dirt in this campaign."
"An Honest President", 2000