22- Grover Cleveland
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He was the only president to be elected to two nonconsecutive terms.
Cleveland was the first executive movie star. In 1895, Alexander Black came to Washington and asked Cleveland to appear in "A Capital Courtship", his photoplay. He agreed to be filmed while signing a bill into law. "A Captial Courtship" was a big hit on the Lyceum Circuit.
Cleveland was the only president to be married in the White House and was the first to have a child born there.
The Baby Ruth candy bar was named after Cleveland's baby daughter, Ruth.
He acted as executioner while sheriff of Erie County, New York. He personally pulled the hanging trap on two convicted murderers.
He and the first lady would shake hands with as many as 8,000 callers at a New Year's Day reception. Crowds entered through the doors and the East Room windows!
Cleveland used his veto powers 584 times during his two terms. This is the highest total of any president except Franklin Roosevelt, who served three terms.
Grover Cleveland went sailing during July 1893 for what people thought was a fishing trip, but he was really having surgery for a strange growth in his mouth. The operation was kept so secret that nobody found out about it until 1917!
Cleveland answered the White House phone, personally.
Cleveland was a draft dodger. He hired someone to enter the service in his place, for which he was ridiculed by his political opponent, James G. Blaine. It was soon discovered, however, that Blaine had done the same thing himself!
For me, this was sufficient information about Cleveland.
This is a better than average treatment of a man who: “….was so unconcerned about trumpeting himself that his official and personal papers were left in ….. ‘chaotic condition’”. There is no autobiography.
Mr. Cleveland lived and administered in interesting times, that are not unlike any other I suppose, especially those being worked on presently by President Obama. Money was scarce and times were hard and there were suspect characters all through politics.
As Mayor of Buffalo (a city assisted in its growth by former President Fillmore) he attacked machine politics and fired anyone taking bribes or stealing from the city. He did the same as Governor of New York State and, as the country’s first Democrat President in a very long time, he set about righting wrongs committed by the railroads on homesteaders and Indians and improved the civil service.
In 1889, in another screwed up election and after capturing the plurality of the popular vote, the Presidency went elsewhere – to Benjamin Harrison. Four years later he was easily returned to the Executive Mansion.
But – a panic hit the country and many financial institutions failed. Strangely, his conservative fiscal policies gave rise to Republican landslide victories in mid-term and his own party did not nominate him for return, nominating William Jennings Bryan instead.
It is sad to think that he is remembered mostly for his own White House wedding, the birth of a child in the White House and that his daughter was immortalized as “Baby Ruth”, a confectioner’s concoction.
Only one of the US Presidents has ever won, lost, then won an election as President, and that's primarily what Grover Cleveland is remembered for. Part of that is because momentous struggles like the Great Depression or the Civil War didn't happen during his time. The Gilded Age was mostly a time of relative peace and it's not common to concentrate on that period during history classes, for instance. That's unfortunate, because during this time some particularly interesting social and economic issues were in play - the question of the gold standard for the dollar and the role of silver in the money supply, relations between Capital and Labor and the role of organized labor in the workplace, the use of Federal troops in responding to strikes of national effect such as the Pullman strike that crippled rail travel, relations with Britain and Spain and the tole of the Monroe Doctrine in US foreign policy. And that's just to name a few!
H. P. Jeffers shows in An Honest President: The Life and Presidencies of Grover Cleveland, a man who was scrupulously honest, outside the political machine of the day, and an able administrator. He tackled the big problems of the day, was mostly right, and was mostly able to make progress in solving some big problems. Yet Jeffers also shows a Cleveland that wasn't the inspiring leader others have been, especially as the nation went through a pretty severe economic downturn. In the end, the assessment of most historians seems to be that Cleveland is one of the "near-greats" in the presidential rankings.
An Honest President is a very readable biography of an interesting man. Jeffers certainly has a high opinion of Cleveland, almost to the point of excess. And that's my main concern about the book - whether Jeffers was able to maintain a good balance in writing about his subject. Certainly Cleveland deserves at least most of the good things said about him, but Jeffers seems to gloss over matters like Cleveland's opinions on race and race relations (which admittedly were the majority opinion of the time) or his conflicts with the press (Jeffers pretty much solely blames the press for this sorry state of affairs), It's not a reason to avoid the book, but a grain of salt seems merited here. I was also quite happy to see Jeffers' evaluation of the various, generally more scholarly, biographies of Cleveland that have been published over the years - the evaluations form a decent jumping-off point for further reading.
by Alyn Brodsky
This is not a bad biography of our 22nd and 24th president. It's a bit light on the coverage of his pre-presidential life, but Mr. Brodsky provides enough information to reveal Cleveland's character as he progresses from lawyer to mayor to governor to president. That character, according to this book, is one of integrity during a time when that quality was sorely lacking in Washington. What struck me about the era was it seemed to be the time when the Democratic party transitioned from being the conservative, lassiez faire party to that of the working man. (Well, the white immigrant working man, anyway.) (Mr. Brodsky mostly glosses over the racism of the day, addressing it in a couple of appendices.) One interesting thing about Mr. Brodsky's style is that he doesn't always keep within the "story" of Cleveland's life. He'll often refer to similar situations later in Cleveland's career or even events in the 20th century, showing either how some things have changed or how other things tend to repeat themselves. It's not something I've noticed other biographers doing. It was a bit odd, perhaps even annoying, at first, but eventually I began to appreciate it.
Grover Cleveland, a man of political courage, was a defender of the Monroe Doctrine, champion of the Gold Standard and Civil Service Reform.
All in all, a man that held honesty as the most important trait of any man even if it threatened his political popularity.
Too bad that more man didn't follow his example.