Website Title

Grover Cleveland
22nd U.S. President
Stephen Grover Cleveland was the 22nd and 24th President of the United States. He was the winner of the popular vote for president three times – in 1884, 1888, and 1892 – and was one of the three ...
Born: March 18, 1837, Caldwell, NJ
Died: June 24, 1908, Princeton, NJ
Spouse: Frances Folsom Cleveland Preston (m. 1886–1908)
Political party: Democratic Party
Previous offices: President of the United States (1893–1897), More
Presidential terms: March 4, 1885 – March 4, 1889, March 4, 1893 – March 4, 1897

Grover Cleveland (1837-1908), who served as the 22nd and 24th U.S. president, was known as a political reformer. He is the only president to date who served two nonconsecutive terms, and also the only Democratic president to win election during the period of Republican domination of the White House that stretched from Abraham Lincoln’s (1809-65) election in 1860 to the end of William Howard Taft’s (1857-1930) term in 1913. Cleveland worked as a lawyer and then served as mayor of Buffalo, New York, and governor of New York state before assuming the presidency in 1885. His record in the Oval Office was mixed. Not regarded as an original thinker, Cleveland considered himself a watchdog over Congress rather than an initiator. In his second term, he angered many of his original supporters and seemed overwhelmed by the Panic of 1893 and the depression that followed. He declined to run for a third term.

Unlike the campaign of 1884, the presidential campaign of 1892 was quiet and restrained. President Harrison, whose wife, Caroline Harrison (1832-92), was dying of tuberculosis, did not campaign personally, and Cleveland followed suit. Cleveland won the election, in part because voters had changed their minds about high tariffs and also because Tammany Hall decided to throw its support behind him.

Cleveland’s second term, however, opened with the worst financial crisis in the country’s history. The Panic of 1893 began with a railroad bankruptcy in February 1893, followed rapidly by bank failures, a nationwide credit crisis, a stock market crash and the failures of three more railroads. Unemployment rose to 19 percent, and a series of strikes crippled the coal and transportation industries in 1894. The American economy did not recover until 1896-97, when the Klondike gold rush in the Yukon touched off a decade of rapid growth.

Cleveland was inconsistent in his social views. On the one hand, he opposed discrimination against Chinese immigrants in the West. On the other hand, he did not support equality for African Americans or voting rights for women, and he thought Native Americans should assimilate into mainstream society as quickly as possible rather than preserve their own cultures. He also became unpopular with organized labor when he used federal troops to crush the Pullman railroad strike in 1894.

Cleveland was an honest and hard-working president, but he is criticized for being unimaginative and having no overarching vision for American society. Opposed to using legislation to bring about social change, he is best known for strengthening the executive branch of the federal government about Congress.

By the fall of 1896, Cleveland had become unpopular with some factions in his own party. Other Democrats, however, wanted him to run for a third term, as there was no term limit for presidents at that time. Cleveland declined, and former U.S. Representative William Jennings Bryan (1860-1925) of Nebraska won the nomination. Bryan, who later became famous as an opponent of British naturalist Charles Darwin’s (1809-82) theory of evolution, lost the 1896 election to Governor William McKinley (1843-1901) of Ohio.

After leaving the White House in 1897, Cleveland retired to his home in Princeton, New Jersey, and served as a trustee of Princeton University from 1901 until his death. He refused overtures from his party to run again for the presidency in 1904. His health began to fail rapidly at the end of 1907, and he died of a heart attack at the age of 71 on June 24, 1908. According to two of Cleveland’s biographers, his last words were, “I have tried so hard to do right.”