Grover Cleveland remains the only President to leave the White House and return for a second term four years later. He filled the office as both the 22nd and the 24th American President.
Grover Cleveland was born in New Jersey in 1837. He had a large family consisting of his eight siblings and his father who was a Presbyterian minister. He grew to adulthood in upstate New York, where he later became a lawyer in Buffalo. Cleveland became well-known for his single-minded concentration toward whatever task faced him.
At 44, he emerged into a political prominence that carried him to the White House in three years. Running as a reformer, he was elected Mayor of Buffalo in 1881, and later, Governor of New York.
Grover Cleveland won his first Presidency with the combined support of Democrats and reform Republicans, the “Mugwumps,” who disliked the record of his opponent James G. Blaine of Maine.
As a bachelor, Cleveland was unhappy at first with all of the luxuries of the White House. “I must go to dinner,” he wrote a friend, “but I wish it was to eat a pickled herring a Swiss cheese and a chop at Louis’ instead of the French stuff I shall find.” In June 1886, Cleveland married 21-year-old Frances Folsom, making him the only American President married while serving in the White House.
Cleveland diligently pursued a policy prohibiting special favors to any economic groups. When he vetoed a bill to appropriate $10,000 for the distribution of seed grain among farmers affected by drought in Texas, he wrote: “Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the Government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character… “
Grover Cleveland also used his veto power as an American President on many private pension bills for Civil War veterans whose claims were proven fraudulent. When Congress, pressured by the Grand Army of the Republic, passed a bill to grant pensions for citizens suffering with disabilities not caused by military service, Cleveland vetoed it, too.
He angered the railroad companies by directing that an investigation into the western lands they held by Government grant be initiated. He forced them to return 81,000,000 acres. He also signed the Interstate Commerce Act, the first law passed that was designed to federally regulate of the railroads.
In December 1887, he called on Congress to reduce high protective tariffs. Told that he had given Republicans an effective issue for the campaign of 1888, he retorted, “What is the use of being elected or re-elected unless you stand for something?” But Cleveland was defeated in 1888. He won a larger popular majority than the Republican candidate Benjamin Harrison, but he received fewer electoral votes.
Elected again in 1892, Cleveland faced an acute national depression. He dealt directly with the Treasury crisis rather than with business failures, farm mortgage foreclosures, and unemployment. He was able to repeal the mildly inflationary Sherman Silver Purchase Act and, with the aid of Wall Street, maintained the Treasury’s gold reserve.
Grover Cleveland sent Federal troops to Chicago when railroad workers on strike decided to violate an injunction. “If it takes the entire army and navy of the United States to deliver a postcard in Chicago,” he pronounced, “that card will be delivered.”
Cleveland’s efficient treatment of the railroad strikers’ situation stirred the pride of many Americans. So did the direct way in which he forced Great Britain to accept arbitration of a disputed boundary in Venezuela. But his policies during the depression were generally unpopular. His party deserted him and nominated William Jennings Bryan in 1896.
After leaving the White House, Cleveland lived in retirement in Princeton, New Jersey. He died in 1908.
The accompanying graphic shows the achievements and notable moments of Grover Cleveland: