Presidents of the United States



Stephen Grover Cleveland

From: Portrait and Biographical record of Rockland and Orange Counties, New York
By: Chapman Publishing Company
Published: 1895

STEPHEN GROVER CLEVELAND, the twenty-second President of the United States, was born in 1837, in the obscure town of Caldwell, Essex County, N. J., and in a little two-and-a-half-story white house, which is still standing to characteristically mark the humble birthplace of one of America's great men, in striking contrast with the Old World, where all men high in office must be high in origin and born in the cradle of wealth. When the subject of this sketch was three years of age, his father, who was a Presbyterian minister with a large family and a small salary, moved, by way of the Hudson River and Erie Canal, to Fayetteville, N. Y., in search of an increased income and a larger field of work. Fayetteville was then the most straggling of country villages, about five miles from Pompey Hill, where Governor Seymour was born.

At the last-mentioned place young Grover coinmenced going to school in the good, old-fashioned way, and presumably distinguished himself after the manner of all village boys-in doing the things he ought not to do. Such is the distinguishing trait of all geniuses and independent thinkers. When he arrived at the age of fourteen years, he had outgrown the capacity of the village school, and expressed a most emphatic desire to be sent to an academy. To this his father decidedly objected. Academies in those days cost money; besides, his father wanted him to become self-supporting by the quickest pos sible means, and this at that time in Fayetteville seemed to be a position in a country store, where his father and the large family on his hands had considerable influence. Grover was to be paid $50 for his services the first year, and if lie proved trustworthy he was to receive $100 the second year. Here the lad commenced his career as salesman, and in two years he had earned so good a reputation for trustworthiness that his employers desired to retain him for an indefinite length of time.

But instead of remaining with this firm in Fayetteville, he went with the family in their removal to Clinton, where he had an opportunity of attending a High School. Here he industriously pursued his studies until the family removed with him to a point on Black River known as the "Holland Patent," a village of five or six hundred people, fifteen miles north of Utica, N. V. At this place his father died, after preaching but three Sundays. This event broke up the family, and Grover set out for New York City t accept, at a small salary, the position of under-teacher in an asylum for the blind. He taught faithfully for two years, and although he obtained a good reputation in this capacity, he concluded that teaching was not his calling in life, and, reversing the traditional order, he left the city to seek his fortune, instead of going to the city. He first thought of Cleveland, Ohio, as there was some charm in that name for him; but before proceeding to that place he went to Buffalo to ask advice of his uncle, Lewis F. Allan, a noted stockbreeder of that place. The latter did not speak enthusiastically. "What is it you want to do, my boy?" he asked. "Well, sir, I want to study law," was the reply "Good gracious!" remarked the old gentleman; "do you, indeed? Whatever put that into your head? How much money have you got?" "Well, sir, to tell the truth, I haven't got any."

After a long consultation, his uncle offered him a place temporarily as assistant herd-keeper, at $50 a year, while he could look around. One day soon afterward he boldly walked into the office of Rogers, Bowen & Rogers, of Buffalo, and told them what he wanted. A number of young men were already engaged in the office, but Grover's persistency won, and he was finally permitted to come as anoffice boy and have the use of the law library, receiving as wages the sum of $3 or $4 a week. Out of this he had to pay for his board and washing. The walk to and from his uncle's was a long and ruggel one; and although the first winter was a memorably severe one, his shoes were out of repair, and as for his overcoat he had none; yet he was, nevertheless, prompt and regular. On the first day of his service there, his senior employer threw down a copy of Black stone before him, with a bang that made the dust fly, saying "That's where they all begin." A titter ran around the little circle of clerks and students, as they thought that was enough to scare young Grover out of his plans; but in due time he mastered that cumbersome volume. Then, as ever afterward, however, Mr. Cleveland exhibited a talent for executiveness rather than for chasing principles through all their metaphysical possibilities. "Let us quit talking and go and do it," was practically his motto.

The first public office to which Mr. Cleveland was elected was that of Sheriff of Erie County, N. Y., in which Buffalo is situated; and in such capacity it fell to his duty to inflict capital punishment upon two criminals. In 1881 he was &ected Mayor of the City of Buffalo, on the Democratic ticket, with especial reference to bringing about certain reforms in the administration of the municipal affairs of that city. In this office, as well as in that of Sheriff, his performance of duty has generally been considered fair, with possibly a few exceptions, which were ferreted out and magnified during his presidential campaign. As a specimen of his plain language in a veto message, we quote from one vetoing an iniquitous street-cleaning contract: "This is a time for plain speech, and my objection to your action shall be plainly stated. I regard it as the culmination of a most bare-faced, impudent and shameless scheme to betray the interests of the people and to worse than squander the people's money.'' The New York Sun afterward very highly commended Mr. Cleveland's administration as Mayor of Buffalo, and thereupon recommended him for Governor of the Empire State. To the latter office he was elected in 1882, and his administration of the affairs of State was generally satisfactory. The mistakes he made, if any, were made very public throughout the nation after he was nominated for President of the United States. For this high office he was nominated July 11, 1884, by the National Democratic Convention at Chicago, when other competitors were Thomas F. Bayard, Roswell P. Flower, Thomas A. Hendricks, Benjamin F. Butler, Allen G. Thurman, etc.; and he was elected by the people, by a majority of about a thousand, over the brilliant and long-tried Republican statesman, James G. Blame. President Cleveland resigned his office as Governor of New York in January, 1885, in order to prepare for his duties as the Chief Executive of the United States, in which capacity his term commenced at noon on the 4th of March, 1885.

The silver question precipitated a controversy between those who were in favor of the continuance of silver coin age and those who were opposed, Mr. Cleveland answering for the latter, even before his inauguration.

On June 2, 1886, President Cleveland married Frances, daughter of his deceased friend and partner, Oscar Folsom, of the Buffalo Bar. Their union has been blessed by the birth of two daughters. In the campaign of 1888, President Cleveland was renominated by his party, but the Republican candidate, Gen, Benjamin Harrison, was victorious. In the nomination: of 1892 these two candidates for the highest position in the gift of the people were again pitted against each other, and in the ensuing election President Cleveland was victorious by an overwhelming majority.

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