Messages and Papers of Grover Cleveland

Author: Grover Cleveland

Messages and Papers of

March 4, 1885, to March 4, 1889

GROVER CLEVELAND was born in Caldwell, Essex County, N.J., March 18, 1837. On the paternal side he is of English origin. Moses Cleveland emigrated from Ipswich, County of Suffolk, England, in 1635, and settled at Woburn, Mass., where he died in 1701. His descendant William Cleveland was a silversmith and watchmaker at Norwich, Conn. Richard Falley Cleveland, son of the latter named, was graduated at Yale in 1824, was ordained to the Presbyterian ministry in 1829, and in the same year married Ann Neal, daughter of a Baltimore merchant of Irish birth. These two were the parents of Grover Cleveland. The Presbyterian parsonage at Caldwell, where he was born, was first occupied by the Rev. Stephen Grover, in whose honor he was named; but the first name was early dropped, and he has been since known as Grover Cleveland. When he was 4 years old his father accepted a call to Fayetteville, near Syracuse, N.Y., where the son had common and academic schooling, and afterwards was a clerk in a country store. The removal of the family to Clinton, Oneida County, gave him additional educational advantages in the academy there. In his seventeenth year he became a clerk and an assistant teacher in the New York Institution for the Blind, in New York City, in which his elder brother, William, a Presbyterian clergyman, was then a teacher. In 1855 he left Holland Patent, in Oneida County, where his mother at that time resided, to go to the West in search of employment. On his way he stopped at Black Rock, now a part of Buffalo, and called on his uncle, Lewis F. Allen, who induced him to remain and aid him in the compilation of a volume of the American Herd Book, receiving for six weeks’ service $60. He afterwards, and while studying law, assisted in the preparation of several other volumes of this work, and the preface to the fifth volume (1861) acknowledges his services. In August, 1855, he secured a place as clerk and copyist for the law firm of Rogers, Bowen & Rogers, in Buffalo, began to read Blackstone, and in the autumn of that year was receiving $4 per week for his work. He was admitted to the bar in 1859, but for three years longer remained with the firm that first employed him, acting as managing clerk at a salary of $600, a part of which he devoted to thesupport of his widowed mother, who died in 1882. Was appointed assistant district attorney of Erie County January 1, 1863, and held the office for three years. At this time the Civil War was raging. Two of his brothers were in the Army, and his mother and sisters were largely dependent upon him for support. Unable himself to enlist, he borrowed money and sent a substitute to the war, and it was not till long after the war that he was able to repay the loan. In 1865, at the age of 28, he was the Democratic candidate for district attorney, but was defeated by the Republican candidate, his intimate friend, Lyman K. Bass. He then became the law partner of Isaac V. Vanderpool, and in 1869 became a member of the firm of Lanning, Cleveland & Folsom. He continued a successful practice till 1870, when he was elected sheriff of Erie County. At the expiration of his three years’ term he formed a law partnership with his personal friend and political antagonist, Lyman K. Bass, the firm being Bass, Cleveland & Bissell, and, after the forced retirement, from failing health, of Mr. Bass, Cleveland & Bissell. In 1881 he was nominated the Democratic candidate for mayor of Buffalo, and was elected by a majority of 3,530, the largest ever given to a candidate in that city. In the same election the Republican State ticket was carried in Buffalo by an average majority of over 1,600. He entered upon the office January 1, 1882, and soon became known as the "Veto Mayor," using that prerogative fearlessly in checking unwise, illegal, and extravagant expenditures. By his vetoes he saved the city nearly $1,000,000 in the first half year of his administration. He opposed giving $500 of the taxpayers’ money to the Firemen’s Benevolent Society on the ground that such appropriation was not permissible under the terms of the State constitution and the charter of the city. He vetoed a resolution diverting $500 from the Fourth of July appropriations to the observance of Decoration Day for the same reason, and immediately subscribed one-tenth of the sum wanted for the purpose. His administration of the office won tributes to his integrity and ability from the press and the people irrespective of party. On the second day of the Democratic State convention at Syracuse, September 22, 1882, On the third ballot, was nominated for governor in opposition to the Republican candidate, Charles J. Folger, then Secretary of the United States Treasury. He had the united support of his own party, while the Republicans were not united on his opponent, and at the election in November he received a plurality over Mr. Folger of 192,854. His State administration was only an expansion of the fundamental principles that controlled his official action while mayor of Buffalo. In a letter written to his brother on the day of his election he announced a policy he intended to adopt, and afterwards carried out, "that is, to make the matter a business engagement between the people of the State and myself, in which the obligation on my side is to perform the duties assigned me with an eye single to the interest of my employers." TheDemocratic national convention met at Chicago July 8, 1884. On July 11 he was nominated as their candidate for President. The Republicans made James G. Blaine their candidate, while Benjamin F. Butler, of Massachusetts, was the Labor and Greenback candidate, and John P. St. John, of Kansas, was the prohibition candidate. At the election, November 4, Mr. Cleveland received 219 and Mr. Blaine 182 electoral votes. He was unanimously renominated for the Presidency by the national Democratic convention in St. Louis on June 6, 1888. At the election in November he received 168 electoral votes, while 233 were cast for Benjamin Harrison, the Republican candidate. Of the popular vote, however, he received 5,540,329, and Mr. Harrison received 5,439,853. At the close of his Administration, March 4, 1889, he retired to New York City, where he reentered upon the practice of his profession. It soon became evident, however, that he would be prominently urged as a candidate for renomination in 1892. At the national Democratic convention which met in Chicago June 21, 1892, he received more than two-thirds of the votes on the first ballot. At the election in November he received 277 of the electoral votes, while Mr. Harrison received 145 and Mr. James B. Weaver, the candidate of the People’s Party, 22. Of the popular vote Mr. Cleveland received 5,553,142, Mr. Harrison 5,186,931, and Mr. Weaver 1,030,128. He retired from office March 4, 1897, and removed to Princeton, N.J., where he has since resided. He is the first of our Presidents who served a second term without being elected as his own successor. President Cleveland was married in the White House on June 2, 1886, to Miss Frances Folsom, daughter of his deceased friend and partner, Oscar Folsom, of the Buffalo bar. Mrs. Cleveland was the youngest (except the wife of Mr. Madison) of the many mistresses of the White House, having been born in Buffalo, N.Y., in 1864. She is the first wife of a President married in the White House, and the first to give birth to a child there, their second daughter (Esther) having been born in the Executive Mansion in 1893.


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Chicago: Grover Cleveland, "Title Page," Messages and Papers of Grover Cleveland in 4883–4884. Original Sources, accessed June 24, 2024,

MLA: Cleveland, Grover. "Title Page." Messages and Papers of Grover Cleveland, in , pp. 4883–4884. Original Sources. 24 Jun. 2024.

Harvard: Cleveland, G, 'Title Page' in Messages and Papers of Grover Cleveland. cited in , , pp.4883–4884. Original Sources, retrieved 24 June 2024, from