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(Stephen) Grover Cleveland

Cleveland, (Stephen) Grover (1837–1908), 22nd and 24th president of the United States (1885–89; 1893–97), the only president to have served 2 non-consecutive terms. Cleveland was first Democratic chief executive after 24 years of Republicans.

Early life

In 1855, Cleveland moved to Buffalo, N.Y., where he worked in a local law office, gaining admittance to the bar in 1859. In 1881, after years in local politics, he was elected mayor of Buffalo on a reform ticket and won a reputation for honesty and hard work. He was elected governor of New York in 1882, and in 1884, after an extremely close race, he defeated Republican candidate James G. Blaine in the presidential election.

First term

As president, Cleveland worked to reform the civil service system and regulated public land sales, leases of Native American land, and railroad grants. In 1887 he began campaigning for lower tariffs. This was a major issue in the 1888 election, which Cleveland lost to Republican Benjamin Harrison, although Cleveland actually won more votes. In the election of 1892, Cleveland defeated Harrison by a comfortable margin.

Second term

Shortly after Cleveland's second inauguration, a severe economic depression broke out (the “panic of 1893”). By the summer, numerous railroad companies had failed, along with thousands of businesses and banks. Unemployment reached 4 million.

In 1894 Cleveland used federal troops to break a strike at the Pullman works in Illinois. In 1896, with Cleveland's popularity at its lowest ebb, the Democratic party nominated William Jennings Bryan for the presidency. Cleveland retired to Princeton, where he became a university trustee and occasional lecturer. In the remaining years of his life, he came to be regarded with respect as an honest president in an era when honest politicians were rare. But despite his attempts to root out corruption, he had failed to deal with the social problems of those years: unemployment and general labor and farmer discontent.


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