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Useful Notes / Grover Cleveland

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"Cleveland made the railroad people squirm.
Harrison signed the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.
Grover Cleveland served another term."
Jonathan Coulton, "The Presidents"

Stephen Grover Cleveland (March 18, 1837 – June 24, 1908) was the only American president to serve for two non-consecutive terms, as the 22nd and 24th president (1885–89 and 1893–97), preceded initially by Chester A. Arthur, then followed and preceded by Benjamin Harrison, then followed, in his second term, by William McKinley. He was the seventh Democratic president. Benjamin Harrison was the 23rd president, winning the 1888 election with the counterintuitive result of Cleveland winning the popular vote but Harrison winning the Electoral College. Cleveland was one of only two bachelors elected president, after James Buchanan, but his bachelorhood ended the following year when he became the second president to get married while in office,note  and the only one to marry in The White House itself. His wife, Frances Folsom, was 27 years younger and he was her guardian since childhood. Alongside Woodrow Wilson, he was one of the only two Democratic presidents from a period of Republican dominance in the White House lasting from 1861 to 1933. He used to be on the $1,000 bill, but these were discontinued in 1969.

He was drafted during The American Civil War but, choosing to advance his legal career instead, paid $150 to a Polish immigrant named George Benninsky to serve in his place (entirely legal at the timenote ), making him America's first draft-dodger president. This, and his refusal to grant bonuses to Civil War veterans, probably helped him lose to the aforementioned Harrison in 1888. (He was, at that time, the first president who had no military service, not even in his home state's militia, since Martin Van Buren.)

He started his political career as the sheriff of Erie County, New York, where he executed several prisoners himself. He later served as mayor of Buffalo and governor of the state.

He may have fathered a child out of wedlock. During his 1884 presidential campaign, the Buffalo Telegraph published a story about how he had an affair with a widow named Maria Halpin, who had borne a son and named him Oscar Folsom Cleveland, after Grover and his law partner. Cleveland wasn't certain that the child was his, but since denying it would mean accusing his married friends of infidelity (Halpin, by all accounts, was known for her promiscuity), he paid child support to Halpin regularly and never claimed anything to the contrary. His Republican opponents took the story and ran with it, heckling Cleveland with chants of "Maw, Maw, where's my Paw?" After he won the election, the Democrats tacked "Gone to the White House, haw, haw, haw!" onto the previous taunt, which they now used as an Ironic Echo. For what it is worth, Halpin claimed he raped her. The scandal might well have ruined Cleveland's campaign had his opponent, James G. Blaine, not had two comparable scandals to deal with: one involving suspicious money from railroads, and another just days before the election when one of his spokesmen gave an inflammatory, anti-Catholic speech in New York City, which virtually destroyed Blaine's support in the city, which had a lot of Catholic voters, probably throwing the election to Cleveland.

At the start of his second term as president, he discovered a tumor on the roof of his mouth; he had the tumor removed in a secret operation on the presidential yacht which was never revealed until well after his death.

Met Franklin D. Roosevelt when he was just five years old and reportedly said, "My little man, I am making a strange wish for you. It is that you may never be President of the United States." Just goes to show you should never tell a Roosevelt not to do something in any way, shape or form.note 

Libertarians regard him as a highly underrated president, as he mostly stayed within the ("original") constitutional bounds of his office and of federal power, and because he generally opposed the growth of labor unions and regulation of big business, though the latter contributed heavily to an economic crisis in his second term. He fought waste and corruption by using the veto more than every president before him combined, which got him nicknamed "His Obstinacy", and kept America on the gold standard at a time when it was politically unpopular (even within his own party, which repudiated him to an extent in 1896 by nominating William Jennings Bryan, an outspoken critic of the gold standard, for President), which is considered a big reason for the astounding economic growth in the late nineteenth century (save the Panic of 1893). He still remains acclaimed for his honesty, which is the source of another of his nicknames, "Grover the Good". As with many other politicians of the era, where his reputation really suffers is in the area of civil rights. It was not so much because of anything that Cleveland did directly, but rather his refusal to veto the Scott Act of 1888 (which expanded the Chinese Exclusion Act passed during Arthur's administration) and his nomination of Melville Fuller as Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Fuller's court would proceed to dismantle virtually all the civil rights legislation that had been passed in the aftermath of the Civil War, in addition to weakening the rights of workers.

As President, Cleveland dedicated the Statue of Liberty when it was completed in 1886.

In the first year of his second term, a huge economic crisis developed, arguably the first of America's industrial age. It was caused by business overspeculation, shaky loans, and bank failures. Unemployment rose to over 18%, over 8,000 businesses collapsed within months, and people all over the country had to wait in food lines for hours so that they could feed their families. It was often known as the Great Depression before, well, the Great Depression. Unemployed workers from the Midwest marched to Washington, D.C., and over 150,000 railroad workers went on strike (the quotation at the top of the page references Cleveland using federal troops to break the strike). Cleveland ascribed the problem to the Sherman Silver Purchase Act passed during Harrison's term. He successfully had the act repealed, but this caused the Treasury's gold supply to drop below $100 million. Overwhelmed, he turned towards banker J. P. Morgan to bail out a lot of government bonds. Many people criticized the President for apparently looking out for the money of the wealthy and not taking care of the suffering poor.

Meanwhile, American sugar planters in the Hawaiian islands overthrew Queen Liliuokalani and created the Republic of Hawaii. They petitioned the American government to annex them, but Cleveland realized the scheme that had taken place and refused. His immediate successor, William McKinley, would do so.

Cleveland retired to New Jersey after leaving office, preferring to remain out of the public eye, although he did retain influence in the Democratic Party. He did briefly reenter the national scene in 1904 when conservative Democrats tried to persuade him to run for a third term against Theodore Roosevelt; Cleveland, however, chose to remain in retirement rather than ending his career by losing to a popular incumbent.note  He died of a heart attack in 1908, his last words being, "I have tried so hard to do right."

Some claim that the "Baby Ruth" candy bar is not named after baseball star Babe Ruth, but after first daughter Ruth Cleveland, born between her father's first and second terms. However, since the candy bar was named "Baby Ruth" in 1921—17 years after Ruth Cleveland's death at the age of 12 and 24 years after her father left the White House, but right at the time that Babe Ruth was rocketing to superstardom—it seems more likely that the Curtiss Candy Company was simply avoiding paying Babe Ruth royalties.

Grover the Muppet was named after him.

Grover Cleveland in fiction:

  • Casey and Andy has him compete with Andy for the romantic attentions of Frances Folsom, who actually turns out to be Satan.
  • American Dad! In the episode about the peanut brittle conspiracy, Stan refers to Grover as "America's greatest president". He left the peanut butter on George Washington Carver's doorstep.
  • The Simpsons and Futurama writer Ken Keeler has apparently worked a joke referencing the fact that Grover served two non-consecutive terms into every show he has written for, for instance in "Two Bad Neighbors" (the one with George H. W. Bush):
    Abe: Grover Cleveland spanked me on two non-consecutive occasions.
    • When asked to explain why this trademark joke involving Cleveland was funny he replied, "Oh, it's not funny!" and then explained the facts about Cleveland for those not aware.
    • In the Futurama pilot, Fry and Bender visit the Hall of Presidents in the Head Museum. First there is Grover Cleveland's head, then Benjamin Harrison's head, then a second Grover Cleveland's head.
  • In the TV reunion movie The Wild Wild West Revisited, Cleveland is one of a collection of world leaders suspected of being replaced with a robotic duplicate: "He looks like Grover Cleveland. He sounds like Grover Cleveland. He bumbles around ineptly like Grover Cleveland..."
  • In an episode of Murphy Brown, Phil complains that George Bush and his entourage never stop by his restaurant while they're jogging. "What we need's another president like Grover Cleveland! Nice and fat and slow."
  • The Disney film The One and Only, Genuine, Original Family Band is about a politically divided family during the 1888 presidential election. The family patriarch, played by Walter Brennan, is a hardcore Democrat who writes a campaign song for Cleveland, which we hear performed by the family twice during the film.
  • An episode of The Venture Brothers features a brief line referring to The Monarch acquiring "Grover Cleveland's Presidential Time Machine". To date, it has not been mentioned again since, but the show's creators are fond of revisiting that kind of thing.
    • It appears near the end of season 7 with little mention. A short time later a future Rusty and Billy emerge dressed as a RMS Titanic passenger and Confederate general respectively.
  • In the "Super Trivia" episode of Aqua Teen Hunger Force, Frylock has forcibly given Shake encyclopedic trivia knowledge, which he tests with this exchange:
    Shake: Who do you think you are?
    Frylock: I'm the only US President to serve two non-consecutive terms in the Oval Office.
    Shake: Then that would make you Grover Cleveland and ... why is this comin' out of my mouth?!
  • In It Happened in Athens, which is set at the Olympic Games of 1896, the cash-strapped American team briefly considers the feasibility of convincing President Cleveland to fund them. They're told that Cleveland can do nothing for them because he has a Republican Congress.
  • In Space Ghost Coast to Coast, Space Ghost blasts Zorak repeatedly with his laser gauntlet, invoking a former President's name with every blast. Eventually, Moltar has to tell Space Ghost that he ran out of Presidents to name-drop, and that he invoked Grover Cleveland twice.
  • Family Guy:
    • A cutaway gag parodying Point Break had Peter and his friends robbing a bank while dressed as lesser-known Presidents; Cleveland was, of course, disguised as Grover Cleveland.
    • The real Grover Cleveland appears in a later episode to explain that he was the first President to get married in the White House. Lois finds the story sweet at first… but that doesn't last long when Cleveland further elaborates that his wife was for all intents and purposes his adopted daughter. Stewie remarks that Cleveland probably won't be the subject of a Broadway musical.
  • Archer: Cleveland is referenced in an X Called; They Want Their Y Back joke.
    Archer: Grover Cleveland called. He wants his watch back. ... He left two non-consecutive messages.