Grover Cleveland, the only President to ever serve nonconsecutive terms, was the 22nd and 24th President of the United States (1885-89) (1893-97). He was known to be honest, independent, and opposed to corruption and the spoils system. His motto "A public office is a public trust," demonstrated his stubborn courage and integrity. Born in Caldwell, New Jersey on March 18 l837, he is noted for many things. His friends called him "Uncle Jumbo" because of his size and jolly demeanor. He was the first sheriff of Buffalo, New York to hang a man.
Grover Cleveland's minister father died when Grover was just sixteen. While Grover was growing up, the Cleveland family moved around quite a bit. At age fourteen, young Grover had gone to work to help support the family. He worked for two years as an assistant at the New York Institute for the Blind. Ultimately, he left home to go west and seek his dreams, but only got as far as Buffalo, where he ended up staying and working on an uncle's farm. Within a year, Grover became a clerk at a law firm and began to study law. He was soon admitted to the bar. For his work in the Governors race he was named assistant District Attorney in Erie County. He ran in his first election for District Attorney and lost. Then he ran for sheriff and won. He gained a reputation for being honest and exposing corruption. Cleveland went on to become the mayor of Buffalo and Governor of New York, where he came into the national spotlight.
As Governor, Cleveland continued his fight for reform. He lost the support of New York's Democratic Party when he argued with Party Chairman, John Kelly. He lost public support when he vetoed a bill that would have lowered the fare on the elevated railroads in New York City.
In spite of these problems with the party and the people, Cleveland ran for President. His reputation for integrity made him the ideal candidate to run against the Republicans, who, at that point, had become identified with corruption and scandal. Cleveland defeated James Blaine to become the first Democrat elected to the presidency since the Civil War. As President, he continued his fight for reform. Upholding the merit system, he not only denied government jobs to thousands of party members, but he convinced Congress to repeal the Tenure of Office Act so that he could remove officials appointed by the previous administration without having to wait until their terms expired.
Cleveland vetoed a bill that would have allowed American Civil War veterans to collect pensions for disabilities that occurred after the war, and he stood against protective tariffs on imported goods. During his first term, he married Frances Folsom, becoming the only President to wed while in the White House. Although he received the majority of popular votes, he lost the 1888 election to Benjamin Harrison.
In 1892 Grover Cleveland was re-nominated, and this time he beat Harrison. This made him the only US President to serve nonconsecutive terms. He took office again just as the nation was entering a depression. His second administration was beset by political and industrial unrest. He invoked the Monroe Doctrine and threatened, if necessary, to use force to arbitrate a dispute with Britain over a South American boundary. He recognized the new government American settlers had established in Hawaii, and he prevented expeditions from leaving the US to assist the rebels in Cuba.
In the Pullman Strike of 1894, Cleveland sent troops in to break the strike on the grounds that movement of the US mail was being halted. He repealed the Sherman Silver Purchase Act in order to maintain the gold standard of the dollar. When Cleveland left office, the US economy was still in a depression and the United States Treasury was nearly bankrupt. In spite of his stubborn courage and simple honesty, Grover Cleveland was not able to solve the problems facing the nation at that time. He was true to his ideals and, when he thought he was right, said "no," even to powerful groups such as farmers, manufacturers and veterans.
Upon leaving office in 1897, Grover Cleveland settled in Princeton, New Jersey, lecturing, writing, and transacting business until he died there on June 24, 1908. On his deathbed he summed up his life well by saying "I have tried so hard to do right."