Cleveland, Stephen Grover

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Cleveland, Stephen Grover

Grover Cleveland was born Stephen Grover Cleveland on March 18, 1837, in Caldwell, New Jersey. He pursued legal studies in Buffalo, was admitted to the bar in 1859, and established his law practice in Buffalo. He was subsequently granted a doctor of laws degree from Princeton University in 1897. From 1863 to 1866 Cleveland performed the duties of assistant district attorney of Erie County, New York, and, four years later, served as sheriff for three years. He entered politics in 1881 with his election as mayor of Buffalo and gained public attention with his forceful policy against corruption in the Buffalo government. In 1882 he became governor of New York and, for the next two years, achieved prominence for his reform policies.

"Though the people support the government, the government should not support the people."
—Grover Cleveland

Cleveland was elected to the presidency of the United States in 1884. He advocated civil service reforms and less stringent tariffs on foreign commerce and opposed excessive pensions awarded to Civil War veterans. He ran for reelection in 1888 against Benjamin Harrison but lost. Four years later he successfully waged another campaign for the presidency, defeating the incumbent President Harrison.

The second presidential administration of Cleveland was fraught with difficulties. The financial panic of 1893 caused a controversy between factions favoring the free coinage of silver and those advocating the gold standard; Cleveland belonged to the latter group and pushed to repeal the Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890, which had provided for an increase in the purchase of silver. The following year workers of the Pullman Parlor Car Company staged a strike, causing a stoppage of the delivery of the U.S. mail. Cleveland viewed this as sufficient reason to dispatch federal troops to intercede.

Cleveland's decisions in the silver crisis and the Pullman Strike earned him great disfavor. He was strong in foreign policy, however, and staunchly opposed force by Britain in that country's boundary dispute with Venezuela.

At the end of his second term in 1896 Cleveland settled in Princeton, New Jersey, where he spent the remainder of his years in retirement. In 1904 he wrote Presidential Problems, which attempted to explain his views on many of the controversial issues of his administration.

Cleveland died June 24, 1908, in Princeton.

Further readings

Bordsky, Alyn. 2000. Grover Cleveland: A Study in Character. New York : St. Martin's Press.

Graff, Henry F. 2002. Grover Cleveland. New York: Times Books.

Jeffers, Paul S. 2000. An Honest President: the Life and Presidencies of Grover Cleveland. New York: W. Morrow.

West's Encyclopedia of American Law, edition 2. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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