Declaration of Independence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. - That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Grover Cleveland

        I chose to highlight Grover Cleveland today for two reasons: 1) he shares a birthday with one of my grandsons and 2) he tried to abide by the Constitution. Stephen Grover Cleveland was born on March 18, 1837, in Caldwell, New Jersey. While still a boy, he dropped his first name. He was the fifth child in a family of five boys and five girls. His father was a minister and a relative of Moses Cleveland, the founder of Cleveland, Ohio. The family had little money, and Grover went to work as a store clerk at age 14. His father died when he was 16. When Grover was 17 he started work as a law clerk and was admitted to the bar about 5 years later in 1859.

       Grover provided support for his mother and the other children during the Civil War. He paid a substitute to take his place in the army, a common and legal practice that later gave his political enemies ammunition to use against him. Cleveland served as sheriff (1870), mayor of Buffalo, New York (1881), and governor of New York (1882) before being elected as the 22nd President of the United States in 1884. He was the only President to serve two terms but not consecutive ones. After his first term in office, he was defeated by Benjamin Harrison in 1888, but he defeated Harrison in 1892 to become the 24th President. He did not seek a third term.

       Cleveland was the first Democratic President elected after the Civil War, indicating that the country returned to a two-party system. His victory came as a protest against the waste and corruption of Republican administrations after the war. He was a hard-working president who didn't delegate responsibility well, but his honesty and common sense helped restore confidence in the government.

       Cleveland had the courage to say "no" and said it often, which made him unpopular in his time but more respected in a historical sense. An example of his ability to say no happened in 1887 when Congress passed a bill to help Texas farmers who were suffering through a great drought. He said, "I feel obliged to withhold my approval of the plan… to indulge a benevolent and charitable sentiment through the appropriation of public funds for that purpose. I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution, and I do not believe that the power and duty of the General Government ought to be extended to the relief of individual suffering which is in no manner properly related to the public service or benefit. A prevalent tendency to disregard the limited mission of this power and duty should, I think, be steadfastly resisted to the end that the lesson should be constantly enforced that though the people support the Government the Government should not support the people. The friendliness and charity of our countrymen can always be relied upon to relieve their fell-citizens in misfortune. This has been repeatedly and quite lately demonstrated. Federal aid in such cases encourages the expectation of paternal care on the part of the government and weakens the sturdiness of our national character, while it prevents the indulgence among our people of that kindly sentiment and conduct which strengthens the bonds of a common brotherhood" (The Writings and Speeches of Grover Cleveland, George Frederick Parker, 450, added.) 

        Cleveland vetoed three times more bills than all his predecessors combined. He was right in this instance because the "fellow-citizens" donated ten times more money to the farmers than the President vetoed. 

        Cleveland was a big, good-natured man whom his family called "Uncle Jumbo." He was the only President to be married in the White House when he married Frances Folsom in June 1886. He was 49, and his bride was 21 - the youngest First Lady in the nation's history. He apparently had been waiting for her to grow up because she had been his ward since her father died in 1875. The Clevelands had five children: Ruth, Esther, Marion, Richard, and Francis. Esther Cleveland was the first and only child of a President to be born in the White House.

        National highlights from the time of President Cleveland are:  1) The American Federation of Labor was founded in 1886. 2) The Statue of Liberty was dedicated in 1886 by President Cleveland and was a gift to the United States from France.  3) The Interstate Commerce Act, approved by Congress in 1887, was the first federal law to regulate railroads and other forms of transportation in the United States.  4) The US Department of Agriculture became a Cabinet-level agency in 1889.  5) The Pullman strike, a violent labor dispute in Chicago in 1894, was ended when President Cleveland sent government troops.  6) The Red Badge of Courage, a classic novel by Stephen Crane, was published in 1895.  7) Henry Ford's first automobile appeared in Detroit in 1896, three years after the nation's first successful gasoline-powered car was built by the Duryea brothers.

        World highlights from the time of President Cleveland:  1) The Canadian Pacific Railway was finished in 1885 and was the first to cross Canada.  2) Queen Victoria of Great Britain celebrated her fiftieth year as queen in 1887.  3) New Zealand granted voting rights to women in 1893, becoming the first nation to give women the complete right to vote.  4) X-rays were discovered in 1895 by a German physicist named Wilhelm K. Roertgen.  5) A practical wireless telegraph system was produced in 1895 by an Italian inventor named Guglielmo Marconi.  6) Sir Wilfrid Laurier in 1896 became the first French-Canadian prime minister of Canada.

 Facts for this post came from an article by Oscar Handlin in World Book Enclyclopedia, Vol. 4, pp 668-673.

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