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Stephen Grover Cleveland (1837-1908) was the 22nd and 24th President of the United States. Born on 18 March 1837, he holds the impressive distinction of being the only President to hold the presidency for non-consecutive terms. His first presidency lasted from 1885 until 1889, and his second term lasted from 1893 until 1897. Grover Cleveland is also remembered as the only Democrat to achieve the office during the time of Republican domination that extended from approximately 1860 until 1912.
Grover Cleveland’s life began in Caldwell, New Jersey. He had four brothers and four sisters and was fifth in line in terms of age. His father was a pastor of the First Presbyterian Church of Caldwell; it was because of his father’s association with the church that Grover Cleveland was named Steven after the first pastor of the church at which his father served. Grover Cleveland lived most of the 1840s in Fayetteville, New York, but moved frequently to follow his father's many transfers as a church minister. Generally, however, he lived in the southern and central parts of New York State.
Though Grover Cleveland was alive at the time of the Civil War, he did not serve in the war alongside other men his age. In possession of a significant amount of wealth, he was able to pay another man to take his place in the war. However, he was not entirely opposed to public service, as he entered the realm of politics at just 19 years of age, serving with James Buchanan’s presidential campaign. Besides campaign work, Grover Cleveland spent some of his adult years as a lawyer in Buffalo, New York. In 1870, he became the sheriff of Erie County, New York.
In 1881, Grover Cleveland became mayor of Buffalo, New York. Just a year later, he was elected New York State’s governor, working on some matters with Theodore Roosevelt, who was then a state legislator. Two years later, he was elected President by both Democratic and reform-minded Republicans. Though he was of a different party, Cleveland was able to capitalize on the dislike aimed at his opponent, Senator James G. Blaine. The Republicans who supported Cleveland criticized Blaine, calling him corrupt.
Grover Cleveland’s campaign was not without its fair share of critics. In fact, his opponent spread the word that he may have fathered an illegitimate child while he was a lawyer. Cleveland did admit to paying child support for the child, but it is unclear whether or not he was the child’s father. Some speculated that he agreed to support the child because he was the only unmarried man among the other law partners who could have fathered the child. He did marry eventually, however, wedding Frances Cornelia Folsom in 1886 and enjoying a White House wedding; the couple went on to have five children.
Grover Cleveland is remembered for several notable presidential acts, including his overseeing of the dedication of the Statue of Liberty in 1886. Additionally, the American Federation of Labor, the Interstate Commerce Act, and the Dawes Act were created during his years as President. Those who supported his presidency praised him for being honest, independent and committed to classical federalism. His opponents criticized him for lacking imagination and being overwhelmed by economic problems.
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