Monday, 11 July 2011

Back to Grover Cleveland

Grover Cleveland was twice elected President of the United States, in 1884 and again in1892.  Since his terms in office were not consecutive he is counted as the 22nd and the 24th President. 

(He won a plurality of votes in the 1888 election, but his opponent, Benjamin 
Harrison, having a majority in the Electoral College, became President).

Cleveland was distantly related to Moses Cleaveland, for whom the American City of Cleveland is named.  (The lore is that the local newspaper requested the dropping of the “a”, so that the name could fit on the newspaper's masthead).

Grover Cleveland was successively Sheriff of Erie County, NY; Mayor of Buffalo NY; Governor of New York State; and President of the United States of America

Wikipedia has what seems to be a fair and balanced article on him. (see below)

 Cleveland has never stood out as a great President.

His virtues were in his diligence, hard work, honesty and incorruptibility.  He was in some ways a “plain and ordinary man” with no formal education and next to no pretension. 

There is a story that when he first entered the White House he was more than unhappy with the “fancy food” which was prepared by the French Chef (who had worked for the gourmand President, Chester Arthur).  On smelling the corned beef and cabbage being cooked for the White House Staff, Cleveland sent his fancy food to them, and asked that he be served the humble corned beef and cabbage dinner.

There was a scandal from his earlier days.   This concerned a Maria Halpin ( a widow) with whom he and others had slept.  Maria became pregnant, and although Cleveland could not be sure that he was the biological father, he gave child support to Maria’s child (a boy), and arranged for him to be adopted.

The “scandal” (much embellished) became fodder for the Republicans in the 1884 election. G.C. was accused of fathering, and then abandoning the child. 

Republican parades would feature an empty baby carriage behind which the crowd would walk calling out “Ma, Ma, Ma, Where’s my Pa”.

After the election, Democratic party members would similarly follow a baby carriage with their riposte “Pa’s in the White House, Ha, Ha, Ha”.

When the scandal first broke, Cleveland responded the concerns of his immediate allies by saying “tell them the truth”.

Grover Cleveland had a modest agenda. He worked for Civil Service reform and the ending of political patronage at the lower ends of public service; he opposed the protectionist high import tariffs favoured by big business and some Republicans; he was an anti-imperialist.

But he had no grand vision, and like his predecessor Chester Arthur,  he had no deep political base within his party.  

He has been judged a failure on account of his inability to deal with the panic of 1893 (see below) 

But he has been widely respected for trying at all times to tell the American people the truth.

My editorial comment is that I think Pres. Obama to be a “Grover Cleveland type” President;  or maybe it is that we live in “Grover Cleveland type” years.

For further reading see

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