Stephen Grover Cleveland (March 18, 1837 – June 24, 1908) was the 22nd and 24th President of the United States. Cleveland is the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms (1885–1889 and 1893–1897) and therefore is the only individual to be counted twice in the numbering of the presidents.
The public eagerly followed reports of his wedding to his 21 year-old ward in 1886 and the birth of their daughter Esther, both of which took place in the White House. He won the popular vote in 1888, but lost in the Electoral College. Reelected in 1892, Cleveland struggled in his second term with a long, deep economic depression, second in its severity only to the Great Depression of the 1930s
In 1881, local businessmen asked Cleveland, then a young lawyer, to run for mayor of Buffalo, New York. He agreed and won the Democratic nomination and the election. As mayor, Cleveland exposed city corruption and earned such a reputation for honesty and hard work that he won the New York gubernatorial race in 1882.
In office, he vetoed a proposal to give pensions to veterans for disabilities not caused by military service, a proposal backed by the Grand Army of the Republic, an influential veterans group. He offended the powerful railroads by his support for the Interstate Commerce Act of 1887, the government’s first attempt at railroad regulation. He also made the railroad return millions of acres of western land that he then opened to homesteaders.
But Cleveland had a sex-scandal to live down: he was accused of fathering a son out of wedlock—a charge that he admitted might be true—owing to his affair with Maria Halpin in 1874. By honestly confronting the charges, Cleveland retained the loyalty of his supporters, winning the election by the narrowest of margins.
In 1888, the sitting president was Grover Cleveland, a Democrat who had risked the support of big business by backing a lower tariff and earned a reputation for doing what he thought was right despite the political consequences. Challenging Cleveland was Republican Benjamin Harrison, grandson of ninth president William Henry Harrison.
The race hinged on New York State's 36 electoral votes. "As New York went, so went the election," says historian Rick Shenkman of George Mason University. It should have been no problem for Cleveland, who had been both the state's governor and mayor of Buffalo. Yet he was vulnerable in New York's sizable Irish community after his administration negotiated a fisheries treaty with the British Empire, which was hated by the Irish.
He became one of Buffalo's most distinguished lawyers and was chosen president of the bar association just before being elected mayor of the city. His contemporaries praised him as "a very distinct personality at the bar, forceful, deliberate, rather slow-moving, impressive, genial; a very earnest advocate."
George Osgoodby, a Republican in California, sent a letter to the British ambassador to the United States under the pretense that he was a British expatriate named Charles Murchison who wanted to know the candidate who would best "favor England's interests." When the ambassador endorsed Cleveland, he unknowingly stepped into the Republicans' trap; the party trumpeted his letter around the country as evidence that Cleveland had been pro-British all along.
Born on March 18, 1837, Caldwell, New Jersey, Grover Cleveland went on to win the 1884 presidential election. Cleveland's rejection of wasteful and corrupt measures endeared him to citizens who admired his honesty and courage. Cleveland lost the 1888 presidential election to Benjamin Harrison but then ran again in 1892, winning and becoming the only US president to serve nonconsecutive terms.
Wealth was never an ambition of Grover Cleveland, and he admitted that he could never bring himself to ask for large fees. He once was offered the post of general counsel of New York Central Railroad, but he turned it down. Although it would have added $15,000 a year to the firm, he felt it would have restricted his choice of work.