March 18th, 2020


Happy Birthday Grover Cleveland

On March 18, 1837 (183 years ago today) Grover Cleveland was born in Caldwell, New Jersey. He is the only President to serve non-consecutive terms, and is counted as both the 22nd and 24th President of the United States. Although Donald Trump is considered to be the 45th President, only 44 men have served as President and our old pal Grover is the reason why the numbering system is out of whack.

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Stephen Grover Cleveland actually ran for president three times—in 1884, 1888, and 1892—and he won the popular vote every time even though Benjamin Harrison and the Republicans captured more of the electoral vote in 1888. Cleveland was also the only Democrat elected to the presidency in the era of Republican political domination that lasted from 1861 to 1913 (between James Buchanan and Woodrow Wilson.) Cleveland was considered to be a fiscal conservative. He is also renowned for his honesty as he fought political corruption, patronage, and the power of the political bosses. There was a reform wing of the Republican Party, called "Mugwumps"that supported Cleveland in 1884 (they were the Reagan Democrats of their day.)

Disaster hit the nation in Cleveland's second term began when the Panic of 1893 produced a severe national depression that Cleveland was unable to reverse. It ruined his Democratic party, opening the way for a Republican landslide in 1894. Cleveland took strong positions and was heavily criticized. His intervention in the Pullman Strike of 1894 to keep the railroads moving angered labor unions. His support of the gold standard alienated many of his fellow Democrats.

One other thing that Cleveland is remembered for is allegations that he fathered a child out of wedlock. Cleveland was accused of being the father of an illegitimate child while he was a lawyer in Buffalo. Cleveland never admitted doing the deed, but he supported the child financially. Some believe he did so to protect the reputation of the real baby daddy, his law partner and best friend Oscar Folsom. During the election of 1884, his Republican opponents chanted "Ma, Ma, where's my Pa?" (After Cleveland won the election, there was a second line to this rhyme which went "gone to the White House, ha ha ha!") When confronted with the scandal, Cleveland's instructions to his campaign staff were: "Tell the truth."Cleveland admitted to paying child support in 1874 to Maria Crofts Halpin, the woman who claimed he fathered her child, which coincidentally she had named Oscar Folsom Cleveland.

People also questioned his choice of bride. Cleveland entered the White House as a bachelor. His friend Oscar Folsom had a young daughter named Frances, and when Oscar Folsom died, Cleveland was the executor of Oscar Folsom's estate. He was responsible for supervising Frances' upbringing. Frances was only 11 when her father died. She later became a student at Wells College and when she returned to school, Cleveland received her mother's permission to correspond with her. They were soon engaged to be married and on June 2, 1886, Cleveland married Frances Folsom in the Blue Room at the White House. At 21 years of age, Frances Folsom Cleveland remains the youngest First Lady. Her groom was 49.


During the 1892 election campaign, Caroline Harrison, the wife of Cleveland's opponent Benjamin Harrison, died after a lengthy illness. Her grief-stricken husband ceased campaigning. Out of respect, and in a very classy move, Cleveland did likewise.

In 1893, Cleveland sought medical advice about soreness on the roof of his mouth. A growth was discovered and Cleveland decided to have surgery secretly, to avoid further panic that might worsen the financial depression. The surgery occurred on the yacht Oneida as it sailed off Long Island. The surgeons successfully removed parts of his upper left jaw and palate. The operation left Cleveland's mouth disfigured. Cleveland was fitted with a hard rubber dental prosthesis that corrected his speech and restored his appearance. A press release about the removal of two bad teeth kept the press placated. Even when a newspaper story appeared giving details of the actual operation, the participating surgeons discounted the severity of what transpired during Cleveland's vacation.

After leaving the White House on March 4, 1897, Cleveland lived in retirement at his estate, Westland Mansion, in Princeton, New Jersey. He still ventured opinions on issues of the day, such as when, in a 1905 article in The Ladies Home Journal, Cleveland wrote that "sensible and responsible women do not want to vote. The relative positions to be assumed by men and women in the working out of our civilization were assigned long ago by a higher intelligence."

Cleveland's health had been declining for several years, and in the fall of 1907 he fell seriously ill. In 1908, he suffered a heart attack and died on June 24, 1908 at the age of 71. His last words were said to be "I have tried so hard to do right."

The high-rollers who read this will recognize Cleveland from one other place. His mug is on the $1000 bill.

Past Campaigns: Charles Evans Hughes 1916 Presidential Campaign

104 years ago, Woodrow Wilson was running for re-election. He had won the presidential election in 1912, benefiting from a schism in the Republican Party and in the friendship of incumbent President William Howard Taft and his predecessor and former mentor Theodore Roosevelt. Wilson might have been able to defeat a united opponent, but it was much easier for him to gain victory when the other major party was badly divided between its conservative wing (for Taft) and its progressive wing (for Roosevelt).

The election took place against a backdrop of a world in turmoil. Close to home, Mexico was going through the Mexican Revolution, while in Europe World War I was in its third year. Public sentiment at home was split between those who wanted their nation to remain neutral in the European conflict, and those who leaned towards the British and French (Allied) forces, due to the harsh treatment of civilians by the German Army in large parts of Belgium and northern France. It appeared that the majority of American voters wanted to avoid involvement in the war, and preferred the policy of neutrality. Wilson's campaign used the popular slogan "He kept us out of war" to appeal to those voters who wanted to avoid a war in Europe or with Mexico.

For the Republicans, the first order of the day was reuniting their party and heal the bitter split that had occurred in the 1912 presidential campaign. Several candidates were openly competing for the 1916 nomination as the Republican convention approached. Two of the most prominent candidates were conservative Senator Elihu Root of New York and liberal Senator John W. Weeks of Massachusetts.

Root had an impressive resume. He had served as the Secretary of War from 1899 to 1904 under Presidents William McKinley and Theodore Roosevelt. He was elected by the state legislature as a U.S. Senator from New York and served one term, 1909–1915. During that time Root was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1912. Root had been a supporter of William Howard Taft during the previous election. Although he was considered by many as a Washington "wise man", Root was 71 years of age at the time of the convention, and his age and his ties to one faction were both seen as impediments to his nomination.

Weeks had been the the Mayor of Newton, Massachusetts from 1902 to 1903, a United States Representative for Massachusetts from 1905 to 1913, as a United States Senator since 1913. Like Root, the knock on Weeks was that he was acceptable only to one faction of the party and could not unite the Republicans in their fight against Wilson. Party bosses wanted a moderate who would be acceptable to both factions of the party.

The one name the party bosses could agree on was Supreme Court Justice Charles Evan Hughes. He was widely seen having the ability to unite the party. He had served as the 36th Governor of New York from 1907 to 1910, when he was appointed as an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States by Taft. Other potential dark horse candidates included Massachusetts Senator Henry Cabot Lodge or General Leonard Wood, though both men had close ties to Roosevelt. Many Republicans saw this as a good strategy because they believed that if they could nominate a candidate acceptable to Roosevelt, this would averting another third party run by progressive Republicans. Former Vice President Charles Fairbanks also saw himself as a viable candidate and he attempted to curry Roosevelt's support, but Roosevelt refused to support Fairbanks.

When the convention met in Chicago from June 7 to 10 of 1916, Hughes led on every ballot. On the first ballot he led by 253.5 votes, with Weeks in second with 105, Root in third with 103, Roosevelt in fourth with 85, Congressman Theodore Burton of Ohio in fifth with 77.5 and Fairbanks in sixth with 74.5. Hughes gained votes on the second ballot and on the third he won the nomination, receiving 949.5 votes.

Fairbanks, who had served as Vice-President under Roosevelt, claimed he was not interested in holding the office again, but when the party nominated him as Hughes' running mate, he accepted the position.

The Progressive Party re-nominated former President Theodore Roosevelt and nominated John Parker of Louisiana as his running-mate. However, Roosevelt telegraphed the convention and declared that he could not accept their nomination and would be endorsing Hughes for the Presidency. When the Progressive Party National Committee met in Chicago on June 26, those in attendance reluctantly endorsed Hughes.

During the election campaign that followed, the Democrats used the pro-Wilson slogan, "He Kept Us out of War," and told voters that a Republican victory would mean war with both Mexico and Germany. Hughes opted to downplay the war as an issue. He advocated a program of greater preparedness. Wilson was believed to have successfully pressured the Germans to suspend unrestricted submarine warfare, making it difficult for Hughes to attack Wilson's peace platform. Instead, Hughes attacked Wilson for his support of various "pro-labor" laws, such as limiting the workday to eight hours, on the grounds that they were harmful to business interests. His criticisms gained little support, especially among factory workers who supported such laws.

Hughes was helped by the vigorous support of popular former President Theodore Roosevelt, but he made a key mistake in California when, just before the election, Hughes made a campaign swing through the state, but never met with the powerful Republican Governor Hiram Johnson to seek his support. Johnson took this as a snub and did not campaign for Hughes. Wilson ended up winning the state, which made all the difference in the final result.

The result was exceptionally close and the outcome remained in doubt for several days, partially because of the wait for returns from California. The electoral vote was one of the closest in history. 266 votes were needed to win. In the end Wilson won 30 states for 277 electoral votes, while Hughes won 18 states and 254 electoral votes.