Grover Cleveland: Facts, Accomplishments & Presidency Video

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  • 0:00 Introduction to Grover…
  • 0:44 Grover Cleveland's Early Life
  • 2:05 Grover Cleveland's Presidency
  • 6:11 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Thomas Davis

Thomas has taught high school age students for 34 years, undergraduate 12 years, and graduate courses for the last 8 years. He has a Masters Degree in Curriculum and Instruction from National Louis University in Evanston, Illinois.

Grover Cleveland served society as a lawyer, mayor, and as the 22nd and 24th president of the United States. He is the only president in our history to serve two terms that were not consecutive. In this lesson, learn about his life and accomplishments.

Introduction to Grover Cleveland

Stephen Grover Cleveland, was both the 22nd and the 24th president of the United States, serving from 1885-1889 and 1893-1897. He could be called a man of principle because if he believed in something, he tended to stick to it. He dealt with many issues during his presidencies, including U.S. involvement in Hawaii, British interference in Venezuela, the Pullman Strike, the Apache Wars, free coinage of silver, and a very severe economic depression. Throughout all of this, Cleveland stood strong, and even when faced with losing the White House, he did not waver. This lesson will discuss the life, presidency, and accomplishments of Grover Cleveland.

Grover Cleveland's Early Life

Stephen Grover Cleveland was born on March 18, 1837, in Caldwell, New Jersey. Stephen was the fifth of nine children born to Richard Falley Cleveland, a Presbyterian minister, and his wife Ann Neal. Because his father was a minister, Stephen's family moved many times while Stephen was young. However, they did stay around the central part of New York while changing parishes. As a youngster, Stephen was a happy young man who liked to pull pranks.

At the age of 16, Stephen had to drop out of school to work and support his family. He went to work with his brother at the New York Institute for Special Education. He then went to work as a law clerk in Buffalo. With the experience he got at these two jobs, he passed the Bar exam to become a lawyer without any structured education.

As an adult, one of the first decisions that Cleveland made was to drop his first name because he was tired of being called ''Big Steve.'' He was a rather large man, weighing in excess of 250 pounds. He decided to go by Grover instead. A few other facts about his life before the presidency: he bought his way out of the Civil War by paying a substitute $300 to go in his place; he started as a district attorney, then sheriff, then mayor of Buffalo, then became governor of New York in 1882. He also took the nickname ''Uncle Jumbo.''

Grover Cleveland's Presidency

Cleveland was elected president for the first time in 1885. He was relatively uncomfortable with being a bachelor in the White House, so Cleveland married the daughter of his former law partner in Buffalo. She was just 21 when they married. Frances Folsom became the youngest first lady ever, with a gap between wife and husband of 27 years. It was the first and only White House wedding in the country's history. The couple had five children - three while in the White House.

As president, Cleveland ended a series of wars called the Apache Wars. They ended with the surrender of Geronimo, an Apache chief, to U.S. government troops. He also dedicated the Statue of Liberty, a gift to the United States from France. Cleveland was a fairly anti-imperialist president. For example, when a dispute between Venezuela and England broke out, his basic stand was for England to stay out of Venezuela's business.

During his second term he had to deal with Hawaii. President Benjamin Harrison, who was the president between the two Cleveland terms, started plans to overthrow the Hawaiian Queen Lilioukalani. Cleveland did not annex Hawaii, but on the other hand, he did not stop it. He did send an ambassador to Hawaii to find out if the U.S. had any influence in the coup. When he found out that the U.S. did, he refused to annex. Eventually, it would be annexed by President McKinley, The U.S. president who followed Cleveland. Cleveland wrote of the Hawaii situation, ''I am ashamed of the whole affair.''

Cleveland was the unofficial veto king of all presidents up to his time, using 584 vetoes during his time in office. His number is second only to Franklin D. Roosevelt, who served over three terms. He became known as the ''guardian president'' because he kept an eye on Congress at every turn. Philosophically, Cleveland believed that hard work during hard times builds character, and felt that government should not be in the subsidy business and that special interest groups were unacceptable.

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