Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Grover Cleveland, born March 18, 1837

Stephen Grover Cleveland was born on March 18, 1837, in Caldwell, New Jersey to Richard Falley Cleveland and Ann Neal Cleveland.  Cleveland's father was a Presbyterian minister, originally from Connecticut.  His mother was from Baltimore, the daughter of a bookseller  On his father's side, Cleveland was descended from English ancestors, the first Cleveland having emigrated to Massachusetts from northeastern England in 1635.  On his mother's side, Cleveland was descended from Anglo-Irish Protestants and German Quakers.  He was distantly related to Moses Cleaveland after whom the city of  Cleveland, Ohio was named.
Caldwell Parsonage, Birthplace of Cleveland

Cleveland, the fifth of nine children, was named Stephen Grover in honor of the first pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Caldwell, where his father was pastor at the time, but he did not use the name Stephen in his adult life.  In 1841, the Cleveland family moved to Fayetteville, New York, where Grover spent much of his childhood.  Neighbors would later describe him as "full of fun and inclined to play pranks", and fond of outdoor sports.  In 1850, Cleveland's father took a pastorate in Clinton, New York, and the family relocated there. 

They moved again in 1853 to Holland Patent, New York.  Not long after the family arrived in Holland Patent, Cleveland's father died, when Grover was 16 years old.  He left school and helped to support his family. Later that year, Cleveland's brother William was hired as a teacher at the New York Institute for the Blind in New York City, and William obtained a place for Cleveland as an assistant teacher. 

He returned home to Holland Patent at the end of 1854. An elder in his church offered to pay for his college education if he would promise to become a minister, but Cleveland declined. Instead, in 1855 Cleveland decided to move west. He stopped first in Buffalo, New York, where his uncle, Lewis W. Allen gave him a clerical job.  Allen was an important man in Buffalo, and he introduced his nephew to influential men there, including the partners in the law firm of Rogers, Bowen, and Rogers.

Grover Cleveland was 24 years old when the Civil War began.

Grover Cleveland as a young man
Cleveland took a clerkship with the firm of Rogers, Bowen, and Rogers in Buffalo, and was admitted to the bar in 1859.

After becoming a lawyer, Cleveland worked for the Rogers firm for three years, leaving in 1862 to start his own practice. In January 1863, he was appointed assistant district attorney of Erie County.

With the Civil War raging, Congress passed the Conscription Act of 1863, requiring able-bodied men to serve in the army if called upon, or else to hire a substitute.  Cleveland chose the latter course, paying George Benninsky, a thirty-two year-old Polish immigrant, $150 to serve in his place. 

During this time, Cleveland lived simply in a boarding house; although his income grew sufficient to support a more lavish lifestyle, Cleveland continued to support his mother and younger sisters. While his personal quarters were austere, Cleveland did enjoy an active social life and enjoyed "the easy-going sociability of hotel-lobbies and saloons.

In 1870, with the help of his friend, Oscar Folsom, he secured the Democratic nomination for sheriff of Erie County.  At the age of thirty-three, Cleveland found himself elected sheriff by a 303-vote margin, taking office on January 1, 1871.  While this new career took him away from the practice of law, it was rewarding in other ways: the fees were said to yield up to $40,000 (US$800,000 in present terms) over the two-year term.

After his term as sheriff ended, Cleveland returned to private practice, opening a law firm with his friends Lyman K. Bass and Wilson S. Bissell. Bass did not spend much time at the firm, being elected to Congress in 1873, but Cleveland and Bissell soon found themselves at the top of Buffalo's legal community. 

In the 1870s, the government of Buffalo had grown increasingly corrupt, with Democratic and Republican political machines cooperating to share the spoils.  When, in 1881, the Republicans nominated a slate of particularly disreputable machine politicians, the Democrats saw the opportunity to gain the votes of disaffected Republicans by nominating a more honest candidate. The party leaders approached Cleveland, and he agreed to run for Mayor of Buffalo.  He took office January 2, 1882.  Cleveland's term as mayor was spent fighting the entrenched interests of the party machines. Cleveland's reputation as an honest politician began to spread beyond Erie County.

As Cleveland's reputation grew, state Democratic party officials began to consider him a possible nominee for governor. In the general election Cleveland emerged the victor.  Continuing his opposition to unnecessary spending, Cleveland sent the legislature eight vetos  in his first two months in office.

The Republicans convened in Chicago and nominated former Speaker of the House James Blaine of Maine for president in the 1884 election,  Blaine's nomination alienated many Republicans who viewed Blaine as ambitious and immoral.  Democratic party leaders saw the Republicans' choice as an opportunity to take back the White House if the right candidate could be found.   Among the Democrats, Samuel Tilden was the initial front-runner. Tilden, however, was in poor health, and after he declined to be nominated, his supporters shifted to several other contenders.  Cleveland, too, had detractors—Tammany Hall remained opposed to him—but the nature of his enemies made him still more friends. Cleveland was nominated as the Democratic candidate for president at the age of 47.

The campaign focused on the candidates' personalities, as each candidate's supporters cast aspersions on their opponents. Cleveland's supporters rehashed the old allegations that Blaine had corruptly influenced legislation in favor of the railroads, later profiting on the sale of bonds he owned in both companies.

To counter Cleveland's image of superior morality, Republicans discovered reports that Cleveland had fathered an illegitimate child while he was a lawyer in Buffalo, and chanted "Ma, Ma, where's my Pa?".  When confronted with the emerging scandal, Cleveland's instructions to his campaign staff were: "Tell the truth." 

Maria Crofts Halpin

Cleveland admitted to paying child support in 1874 to Maria Crofts Halpin, the woman who claimed he fathered her child, named Oscar Folsom Cleveland.  Halpin was involved with several men at the time, including Cleveland's friend and law partner, Oscar Folsom, for whom the child was also named.  Cleveland did not know which man was the father, and is believed to have assumed responsibility because he was the only bachelor among them.

Cleveland narrowly won all four of the swing states, including New York by just over one thousand votes. While the popular vote total was close, with Cleveland winning by just one-quarter of a percent, the electoral votes gave Cleveland a majority of 219–182. Following the electoral victory, the "Ma, Ma ...Where's My Pa?" attack phrase gained a classic rejoinder: "Gone to the White House. Ha! Ha! Ha!"
"I want my pa!"
Soon after taking office in 1885, Cleveland was faced with the task of filling all the government jobs for which the president had the power of appointment. These jobs were typically filled under the spoils system, but Cleveland announced that he would not fire any Republican who was doing his job well, and would not appoint anyone solely on the basis of party service. He also used his appointment powers to reduce the number of federal employees, as many departments had become bloated with political time-servers. Later in his term, as his fellow Democrats chafed at being excluded from the spoils, Cleveland began to replace more of the partisan Republican officeholders with Democrats. While some of his decisions were influenced by party concerns, more of Cleveland's appointments were decided by merit alone than was the case in his predecessors' administrations.

Cleveland, like a growing number of Northerners (and nearly all white Southerners) saw Reconstruction as a failed experiment, and was reluctant to use federal power to enforce the 15th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution, which guaranteed voting rights to African Americans.  

Although Cleveland had condemned the "outrages" against Chinese immigrants, he believed that Chinese immigrants were unwilling to assimilate into white society.  Secretary of State Bayard negotiated an extension to the Chinese Exclusion Act, and Cleveland lobbied the Congress to pass the Scott Act, written by Congressman William Lawrence Scott, which would prevent Chinese immigrants who left the United States from returning.  The Scott Act easily passed both houses of Congress, and Cleveland signed it into law on October 1, 1888.

Cleveland viewed Native Americans as wards of the state, saying in his first inaugural address that "[t]his guardianship involves, on our part, efforts for the improvement of their condition and enforcement of their rights." He encouraged the idea of cultural assimilation, pushing for the passage of the Dawes Act, which provided for distribution of Indian lands to individual members of tribes, rather than having them continued to be held in trust for the tribes by the federal government.  Cleveland believed the Dawes Act would lift Native Americans out of poverty and encourage their assimilation into white society, but its ultimate effect was to weaken the tribal governments and allow individual Indians to sell land and keep the money.

Roxe Cleveland, Grover's Sister
Cleveland entered the White House as a bachelor. His sister, Rose Cleveland, moved into the White House and acted as hostess for the first two years of his administration. In 1885, the daughter of Cleveland's friend Oscar Folsom visited him in Washington.  Frances Folsom was a student at Wells College; when she returned to school, President Cleveland received her mother's permission to correspond with her. They were soon engaged to be married.
Frances Folsom Cleveland
On June 2, 1886, Cleveland married Frances Folsom in the Blue Room at the White House. He was the second president to marry while in office, and the only president to have a wedding in the White House.

The Cleveland Wedding in the White House
This marriage was unusual because Cleveland was the executor of Oscar Folsom's estate and had supervised Frances' upbringing after her father's death, but the public did not take exception to the match.  At twenty-one years old, Frances Folsom Cleveland remains the youngest First Lady, and the public soon warmed to her beauty and warm personality. 

1888 Campaign Poster
In the 1888 presidential election, Cleveland was defeated by Benjamin Harrison of Indiana. As Frances Cleveland left the White House, she told a staff member, "Now, Jerry, I want you to take good care of all the furniture and ornaments in the house, for I want to find everything just as it is now, when we come back again." When asked when she would return, she responded, "We are coming back four years from today." 

In the meantime, the Clevelands moved to New York City where Cleveland took a position with the law firm of Bangs, Stetson, Tracy, and MacVeigh.

While they lived in New York, the Clevelands' first child, Ruth, was born in 1891.

Ruth Cleveland
Cleveland's stature as an ex-president and recent pronouncements on the monetary issues made him a leading contender for the Democratic nomination for president in 1892.  The Republicans re-nominated President Harrison, making the 1892 election a rematch of the one four years earlier. Unlike the turbulent and controversial elections of 1876, 1884 and 1888, the 1892 election was, according to Cleveland biographer Allan Nevins, "the cleanest, quietest, and most creditable in the memory of the post-war generation", in part because Harrison's wife, Caroline, was dying of tuberculosis.  Harrison did not personally campaign at all. Following Caroline Harrison's death on October 25, two weeks before the national election, Cleveland and all of the other candidates stopped campaigning, thus making Election Day a somber and quiet event for the whole country as well as the candidates.  The end result was a victory for Cleveland by wide margins in both the popular and electoral votes.
Panic of 1893 - Wall Street
Shortly after Cleveland's second term began, the Panic of 1893 struck the stock market, and he soon faced an acute economic depression.  The panic was worsened by the acute shortage of gold that resulted from the free coinage of silver, and Cleveland called Congress into session early to deal with the problem. The debate over the coinage was as heated as ever, but the effects of the panic had driven more moderates to support repealing the free coinage provisions of the Sherman Silver Purchase Act. Even so, the silverites rallied their following at a convention in Chicago, and the House of Representatives debated for fifteen weeks before passing the repeal by a considerable margin.  With the passage of the repeal, the Treasury's gold reserves were restored to safe levels. At the time the repeal seemed a minor setback to silverites, but it marked the beginning of the end of silver as a basis for American currency.

The Panic of 1893 had damaged labor conditions across the United States, and the victory of anti-silver legislation worsened the mood of western laborers. A group of workingmen led by Jacob S. Coxey began to march east toward Washington, D.C. to protest Cleveland's policies. This group, known as Coxey's Army, agitated in favor of a national roads program to give jobs to workingmen, and a weakened currency to help farmers pay their debts. By the time they reached Washington, only a few hundred remained, and when they were arrested the next day for walking on the grass of the United States Capitol, the group scattered.  Coxey's Army was never a threat to the government, but it showed a growing dissatisfaction in the West with Eastern monetary policies.
Strike-breaking Troops in Chicago
The Pullman Strike had a greater impact than Coxey's Army. A strike began against the Pullman Company over low wages and twelve-hour workdays, and sympathy strikes, led by American Railway Union leader Eugene V. Debs, soon followed.

Eugene V. Debs
 By June 1894, 125,000 railroad workers were on strike, paralyzing the nation's commerce. Because the railroads carried the mail, and because several of the affected lines were in federal receivership, Cleveland believed a federal solution was appropriate. Cleveland obtained an injunction in federal court, and when the strikers refused to obey it, he sent in federal troops to Chicago and 20 other rail centers. "If it takes the entire army and navy of the United States to deliver a postcard in Chicago," he proclaimed, "that card will be delivered." Leading newspapers of both parties applauded Cleveland's actions, but the use of troops hardened the attitude of organized labor toward his administration.

In Cleveland's first term, no new states had been admitted in more than a decade, owing to Congressional Democrats' reluctance to admit states that they believed would send Republican members. When Harrison took office, he and the Republican Congress admitted six states: North Dakota, South DakotaMontanaWashingtonIdaho, and Wyoming—all of which were expected to send Republican delegations. Utah, however, was believed to be Democratic. This, combined with uncertainty about Mormon polygamy (disavowed in 1890), led it to be excluded from the new states. When Cleveland won election to a second term, he and the Democratic majority in the 53rd United States Congress passed an Enabling Act in 1894 that permitted Utah to apply for statehood. Utah joined the Union on January 4, 1896.

In 1896, Cleveland declined to accept the Democratic nomination for a third term.  William McKinley, the Republican nominee, triumphed easily over William Jennings Bryan.
Cleveland at McKinley's Inauguration
After leaving the White House on March 4, 1897, Cleveland lived in retirement at his estate, Westland Mansion, in Princeton, New Jersey.
In a 1905 article in The Ladies Home Journal, Cleveland weighed in on the women's suffrage movement, writing that "sensible and responsible women do not want to vote. The relative positions to be assumed by men and women in the working out of our civilization were assigned long ago by a higher intelligence."

Cleveland's health had been declining for several years, and in the autumn of 1907 he fell seriously ill.  In 1908, he suffered a heart attack and died. His last words were "I have tried so hard to do right." 
Oscar Folsom Cleveland was born on September 14, 1874, in a hospital for unwed mothers in Buffalo.  Cleveland arranged to have the child forcibly removed from his mother and placed in the Buffalo Orphan Asylum. Maria Halpin was thrown into the Providence Lunatic Asylum, although the facility's medical director quickly released her after an evaluation, concluding (correctly) that she was not insane and that her incarceration was the result of an abuse of power by political elites.  Maria Halpin a widow with two young children, a church-going woman, who came to Buffalo from Jersey City about 1871.  She found employment first as a collar-maker and then in the dry-goods store of Flint & Kent, where she was soon placed at the head of the cloak department. She was tall, pretty, pleasing in manner, and spoke French. She attended the fashionable St. John's Episcopal Church and made numerous friends.  She claimed that rather than having an affair, Cleveland had raped her.

Apparently the child was adopted by a well-to-do doctor in Buffalo and his family, and raised as their own.
James E. King, Jr.

No comments:

Post a Comment