Thursday, July 28, 2011

Grover Cleveland: That Mustache Is Hiding More than a Tumor!

Young Cleves: dapper.
America's 22nd and 24th president Stephen Grover Cleveland was born the fifth of nine children to a Presbyterian minister and his wife in New Jersey in 1837. He never went as Stephen as an adult because Sesame Street didn't exist back then, so he couldn't be teased as Super Grover or anything. G.R.over grew up in New York state and was known as sporty type who enjoyed practical jokes. His father died in 1853, so Groves left school to try and help support his large family. His older brother got a teaching job at a school for the blind in NYC and hooked up G-roves with an assistant teaching position for a while. He was offered college scholarships if he would undertake the ministerial profession. But he said no. He probably mostly just hated Jesus.

He moved to Buffalo, NY where his uncle hooked him up with some sweet contacts. Grover became a law clerk and then passed the bar in 1859. He practiced some law and then became Assistant District Attorney for Erie County in 1863. By this time, of course, the Civil War was all "I'm raging and I swear this is totally not all about black people, but let's be honest, it is." Anyway, the Union was requiring all able-bodied dudes of a certain age to enlist unless they had money, and Grover Cleveland was like, "I do not think I want to get dirty in this war. I will pay a Polish immigrant, like, $150 to take my place." And so he did! And so he was the first president elected after the Civil War not to be a veteran. Besides Johnson, duh.

Though he made a good living lawyering it up in Buffalo, ol' Clevey lived a spartan lifestyle and sent money to support his mom and younger sisters. Despite the political currents of the time, Cleveland was all about the Democratic Party. He was elected Sheriff of Erie County in 1871, in which office he personally hanged two people. Murderers, you know, not just regular people or something. After his term as sheriff, Cleves went back to private practice and opened a firm with friends. He was elected mayor of the city of Buffalo in 1881. He was all honest and shit as a politician. He was the third choice for Democratic nominee for New York's governor in 1882, but ended up winning. He started his veto-heavy legacy here. He was against unnecessary spending and made himself many enemies with NYC's Tammany Hall. He did make friends with reform-minded Republicans of the time like TR though.

Should've kept those plaid pants buttoned up, bro!
He was nominated for president by the party in 1884 and defeated James G. Blaine with support from Mugwump Republicans. It is a funny name for a political faction! During the election, everybody was like, "Grover Clover, you totes have an illegitimate babayy!" And Cleveland's campaign was all like, "Well, he might be the father of Oscar Folsom Cleveland, so he did the stand-up thing and paid child support." Oscar Folsom (Sr.?) was his law partner, but Cleveland was single and Folsom wasn't, so he took responsibility since the mother was full of sluttiness. Anyway, some of Blaine's supporters said bad shit about Catholics and the Irish voted for Cleveland enough to win. And then he was president! He did a lot of vetoing and didn't like silver monies or the spoils system or high tariffs. He invaded less foreign countries than other presidents, but was not so racially progressive since he approved of both Chinese Exclusion and the Dawes Act and thought Reconstruction had been a waste of time.

But the big story of his first term of office was that he married Oscar Folsom's daughter Frances at the White House in 1886. She was 21 at the time and they eventually had five kids. Cleveland is the only president to get married at the White House/during his term of office. Oscar was dead by now and Cleveland had helped take care of his estate and to raise Frances. So that is kind of weird. Also, Frances' dad and husband had been fucking the same lady at the same time and either she had an illegitimate stepson named after her father and/or her husband paid child support for her half brother. So, it's a little bit incestuous, is what I am saying.

Kind of almost daughter wife?
 Back to politics! Cleveland's VP Hendricks died in 1885, so he got a new running mate for the 1888 reelection campaign who I refuse to look up. He ran against legacy candidate Benjamin Harrison, and despite winning the popular vote again, was bumped out of the Electoral College by widespread voter fraud in Indiana. Does this story sound familiar to anybody? But anyway, a defeated Cleveland moved to New York City and practiced law for a few years. He reentered public life with a letter protesting the adoption of silver-based currency in 1891. So the Democratic Party was like, "We've only gotten one dude elected in, like 35 years, so maybe we should try that Cleveland guy again." He was nominated for the presidency in 1892 with greenback-supporting Adlai Stevenson, Sr. as his running mate. President Harrison's wife was dying of TB during the campaign, so he did no personal electioneering. Out of respect for Harrison's personal situation, Cleveland didn't go out and campaign himself either. Many Republicans defected to the Populist Party candidate during this election, leading to Cleveland's third popular vote win (in a row), and second successful election.

During his second term, things kind of turned to shit in America, as they do frequently. The Panic of 1893 led to a serious economic depression and a shortage of gold meant to back up the U.S. dollar. Treasury reform led to a re-adoption of the gold standard. There was a messy congressional fight over tariff reform, but it did end up lowered somewhat. There were lots of labor problems (shock shock, workers don't like depressions), and Cleveland notoriously decided to send U.S. troops in to break up the Pullman strike. Cleveland was like, "Railroads deliver mail, and nobody fucks with the mail, and you strikers just shut up and stop bugging me or we will shoot you." The annexation of Hawaii was also pushed through Congress during Cleveland's second term, which was totally awesome and supported by native Hawaiians. Haha, just kidding, of course! Cleveland broadly interpreted the Monroe Doctrine during this term, intervening all over the place in Latin America, though he was pre-Roosevelt Corollary, so he has no foreign policies named after him.

At the beginning of his second term, though, Cleveland had some mouth cancer and got secret boat-based surgery to remove the tumor. 1. I want to read this book so hard and 2. I am also pleased that his mustache was used to hide his surgery scars and whatnot. Facial hair for the win, bitchez! Anyway, he survived and served out his term, but wasn't interested in running for a third term in 1896. He and his wife retired to their mansion in Princeton, New Jersey and he served as a trustee of Princeton for a time while Wilson was university president. At some point he told the Ladies' Home Journal that "sensible women" had no interest in suffrage. Clearly. He got sick in 1907 and ultimately died of a heart attack in 1908. He's buried in Princeton. A presidential library for him is being discussed currently in Buffalo, he appeared on $1000 bills in 1928 and 1934 (who had that much money then?), and also there is a volcano in Alaska named after him. I think the volcano wins for best legacy.

1 comment:

  1. I'm so glad the presidential posts are back. Keep 'em coming! (that is, if there are any presidents that you have not covered yet)