Grover Cleveland The American Presidents Series: The 22nd and 24th President, 1885-1889 and 1893-1897

The American Presidents

Henry F. Graff; Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., General Editor

Times Books




176 Pages



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In this volume, renowned presidential historian Henry F. Graff traces the life of an exceptionally significant chief executive who never curried the people's favor, yet won it just the same.

When Grover Cleveland took office in 1885, one world was ending and another one emerging. The signs were everywhere: transcontinental railroads were still being built, the telephone was still a novelty, the light bulb had just been invented. In the political arena, Cleveland bridged the time between the old and the new—from the age when Congress dominated national affairs to the modern era, when affairs became more sharply focused around the president.

If Cleveland is less well-remembered today than he ought to be, it is because he brought to the White House not flamboyance and bluster but quiet dignity and integrity. He came to office with no program, no pretence, no military record—and no wife. Self-reliant to a remarkable degree, he was the kind of man, a friend said, "who would rather do something badly for himself than to have someone else do it well." If his public presence was ordinary and even colorless, his fellow citizens found these characteristics to be just what they wanted. He was, in fact, the only Democrat elected twice in the three-quarters of a century between the tenures of Andrew Jackson and Woodrow Wilson. Cleveland fitted perfectly his decade in power, conducting the presidency with one telephone and only rudimentary electric lighting, and sometimes answering the door himself. He ignored the press—the last president who dared to do so—and went his own way, relying on his instincts and his political courage to define his public policies. In an era marked by harsh economic times and labor disputes, Cleveland struggled mightily against the political culture of his time, and his policies are often viewed as severe by modern critics.


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  1Early YearsCleveland was baptized Stephen Grover, but he never used the Stephen after he grew up. He was the fifth of the nine children and third son of the Reverend Richard Falley Cleveland and Ann Neal, a native of Baltimore. There her father, Abner Neal, made a living as a bookseller and publisher of law books. He and his family had emigrated recently from Ireland, possibly fleeing the consequences of involvement in the 1798 uprising against the British crown. Ann’s mother, Barbara Reel, was a Quaker of German background from Germantown, Pennsylvania. The new baby, then, like his
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  • Grover Cleveland by Henry F. Graff--Audiobook Excerpt

    Listen to this audiobook excerpt from Henry F. Graff's biography Grover Cleveland, part of The American Presidents Series. Though often overlooked, Grover Cleveland was a significant figure in American presidential history. Having run for President three times and gaining the popular vote majority each time -- despite losing the electoral college in 1892 -- Cleveland was unique in the line of nineteenth-century Chief Executives.



  • Henry F. Graff; Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr., General Editor

  • Henry F. Graff is a professor emeritus of history at Columbia University, where he taught his pioneering seminar on the presidency. The author of The Tuesday Cabinet and the reference work The Presidents, he is a frequent commentator on radio and television. Graff lives in New York.

    Series editor Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. is arguably the preeminent political historian of our time. For more than half a century, he has been a cornerstone figure in the intellectual life of the nation and a fixture on the political scene. He served as special assistant to John F. Kennedy; won two Pulitzer Prizes for The Age of Jackson (1946) and A Thousand Days (1966); and in 1998 received the National Humanities Medal. He published the first volume of his autobiography, A Life in the Twentieth Century, in 2000.