"There is danger from all men. The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with
power to endanger the public liberty." - - - - John Adams

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Grover Cleveland - A life of scandal and principal

President Grover Cleveland:  A Classical Liberal.  Believer in small government, the gold standard,
free trade, state's rights and anti-imperialism.

Book Review:  A Secret Life: The Lies and Scandals of President Grover Cleveland    Charles Lachman (Author)

By Gary;

Remember your history class?  Abraham Lincoln died then the next thing you know Teddy Roosevelt is charging up San Juan Hill.  Somehow 30 years of American history simply vanishes from the books.  Certainly you will never seen those years seriously covered on the All-Hitler cable TV history channels. 

I was browsing through Barnes and Noble and this book caught my eye.  Cleveland?  I really do not know much about him.  Hmmmm . . . why not.  Some 48 hours later I finished it.  A wonderful history and an easy read. 

The life of Cleveland covers an era when the Republic was a more simple one.  A time before the growth of an anal-retentive Big Government that micro-manages everyone's lives in the name of order.  For example, to become an attorney Cleveland simply worked as a law clerk for a couple years and then interviewed with a judge.

A young attorney Grover Cleveland.

Following the life of Cleveland you see many of the great issues of the time such as civil rights, the civil war, immigration, labor unions etc from his small government Democratic point of view.

Most interesting though is the detail on the scandals and almost scandals of Cleveland's life.

BAR FLY:  The eternal bachelor, Cleveland lived till all hours of the night in bars in endless eating, singing songs and beer drinking, but somehow stayed out of real trouble. 

SHERIFF OF ERIE COUNTY:  As sheriff one of Cleveland's jobs was to supervise the saloons.  It was a most satisfactory set of duties for him.  Also he was paid on commission for his duties on foreclosing on properties, evictions and serving papers.  The job made him comfortable if not wealthy.  It is estimated he made $40,000 or more in fees during his term.  $40,000 in 1870s dollars was serious money.

MAYOR OF BUFFALO:   Back in private law practice after his term as sheriff, Cleveland was (naturally) drinking in a local saloon.  Over in one corner a group of men were also drinking, talking and looking at Cleveland.  They invited him over.  They were Democrats unsuccessfully seeking a candidate for mayor and asked him if he would like to be the Democratic nominee.  Cleveland thought about it and said "why not?"

In 1882 Cleveland defeated the GOP machine candidate in a landslide and went on to become a clean government reformer.  His campaign to break the back of local corruption and kick-backs brought him to the attention of Democrats around New York.

GOVERNOR:  Cleveland came from behind to gain the Democratic nomination and then went on to win the governorship in a huge landslide against a divided Republican Party.

PRESIDENT:  After the Civil War the Democrats were hungry for a winner.  Cleveland's landslide win in the key state of New York thrust him on to the nation scene.  What is interesting is his sudden and meteoric rise to the White House.  The time period from him being called Mayor Cleveland to becoming President-Elect Cleveland was only 24 months.  A staggeringly short time.
A Lesbian First Lady.
First Lady Rose Cleveland's lesbianism
would have rocked the nation.

Scandal of the Century

The book does a wonderful job with the great scandal of the 1884 election.  It was a tremendous shock to the nation when the Buffalo Evening Telegraph reported that Cleveland had fathered a child out of wedlock, that the child had gone to an orphanage, and that the mother had been driven into an insane asylum by Democratic cronies of Cleveland.

In 1873 after having dinner Cleveland had escorted Maria Halpin back to her room at a downtown boarding house. What happened next, according to Halpin’s affidavit, would in another era be classified as date rape.

Cleveland sexually assaulted her “by use of force and violence and without my consent,” Halpin reported, adding that when she threatened to notify the authorities, Cleveland “told me he was determined to ruin me if it cost him $10,000, if he was hanged by the neck for it. I then and there told him that I never wanted to see him again [and] commanded him to leave my room, which he did.”

Cleveland saw the matter through in the most “courageous way,” the PR spin went, explaining that his indifference to the boy was due to “doubts about his fatherhood.”

Lesbianism and the "Creep Factor"

If an out of wedlock son was not scandal enough, Cleveland sat on top of another time bomb that never went off.  His sister Rose was a lesbian.  Normally people would not notice.  But in this case Rose was serving as her bachelor brother's First Lady in the White House.

Rose had a lesbian relationship with a wealthy widow, Evangeline Simpson, with explicitly erotic correspondence.  Rose and Evangeline were later buried side-by-side in Italy.

Victim of child stalking?
Future First Lady Frances Folsom was
stalked by Grover Cleveland from birth.

CREEP FACTOR:  But the real "Creep Factor" is Cleveland's relationship with his wife Frances.

A longtime close friend of Oscar Folsom, Grover Cleveland, at age 27, met his future wife shortly after she was born. He took an avuncular interest in the child, was her Godfather, bought her a baby carriage and otherwise doting on her as she grew up. When her father, Oscar Folsom, died in a carriage accident on July 23, 1875, without having written a will, the court appointed Cleveland administrator of his estate. This brought Cleveland into still more contact with Frances, then age 11.

At one point the mother of Frances asked bachelor Cleveland why he was not yet married.  Cleveland replied, "Because I am waiting for my future wife to grow up."

This "romance" moves into a really, really weird category of creepy.

She attended Central High School in Buffalo, NY and went on to attend Wells College in Aurora, New York. Sometime while she was in college, Frances became engaged.  Cleveland had her break off the engagement and started sending her flowers.  He proposed by letter in August 1885, soon after her graduation. They did not announce their engagement, however, until just five days before the wedding.

Frances Folsom, age 21, married President Grover Cleveland, age 49, on June 2, 1886, at the White House. Their age disparity was 27 years.

This is a wonderful read.  The book gives you a real feel for the politics and social life of 19th century America.  Add this one to your reading list.

This Judge cartoon makes fun of the revelation that, years before, Democratic presidential nominee Grover Cleveland had fathered a child out of wedlock. Here, "Grover the Good" (a reference to his reputation for public integrity) is startled on the street to hear a wailing toddler identify him as the baby's father. During the campaign, Republicans were said to chant the refrain, "Ma! Ma! Where's My Pa!" After the election, Democrats answered: "Gone to the White House! Ha, Ha, Ha!"

Grover Cleveland’s shrinking stature with the voters of New York over time. The first image depicts a large Cleveland who in 1882 won a landslide victory for the New York governorship over his Republican opponent, Charles Folger, 59%-37%.   At the national level, New York in the late-nineteenth century was a swing state that was closely contested between the two major parties.

Republicans waving the bloody shirt.
Click on image to enlarge.

This double-page cartoon reminds voters of the contrasting Civil War records of the men on the two parties’ national tickets. On the left, Democratic vice-presidential nominee Adlai Stevenson (left) and presidential nominee Grover Cleveland (right) are caricatured as hobos in front of the “U.S. Recruiting Office.” During the Civil War, both men hired substitutes to fight for them. Here, they are poor substitutes who are turned away from the nation’s highest offices by Uncle Sam, who announces that the Republican ticket of President Benjamin Harrison (left) and vice-presidential nominee Whitelaw Reid (right) will be the Democrats’ substitutes in the White House.

During the Civil War, Harrison fought as an officer in the Union Army, while Reid was a battlefield correspondent. The heroic and dignified appearance of the two Republicans contrasts starkly here with the disheveled and irresponsible character of the two Democrats. Behind Uncle Sam, General Daniel Sickles, a Democrat who lost a leg in the war, points to his declaration that he and all Union veterans in New York would vote against Cleveland.

Democrats try to "electrify" the dead campaign of Grover Cleveland.
Click image to enlarge.

The message of this cartoon is that the 1892 Democratic national ticket is as politically dead as ancient Egyptian mummies, which no amount of electricity from “campaign enthusiasm” can revive. The image is based on Thomas Nast’s famous caricature of Samuel J. Tilden as a mummy (in a sarcophagus), which appeared 15 times in Harper’s Weekly between 1877-1884. The symbol ridiculed the age and political irrelevancy of the former Democratic presidential nominee of 1876, as well as his involvement in that election’s “Cipher Telegrams” scandal.

Here, the 1892 presidential nominee, Grover Cleveland (right), and his vice-presidential running mate, Adlai Stevenson (left), are mummies leaning against the “Political Catacombs” wall and connected to electrodes. The respective sarcophagi are dated when they lost elective office: Stevenson failed to retain his congressional seat in 1880 and Cleveland lost his presidential reelection bid in 1888. Decorating the Cleveland case is a British flag labeled “Free Trade Humbug” and “Anglo-Mania” in reference to his stance in favor of tariff reform. Republicans equated the Democratic position of tariffs-for-revenue-only with free trade, claiming that the abandonment of high tariffs would leave American industry helpless against British manufacturers.

In the background are the sarcophagi of two Democratic has-beens. Lying prone are the remains of Thomas Hendricks, the U.S. vice president who died in 1885 during the first year of President Cleveland’s first term. Tilting against the column is James Campbell, former Democratic governor of Ohio (1890-1892), whose reelection loss in the fall of 1891 to Republican William McKinley ended any chance of his nomination for president. On the left are leading Democrats (left-right): Charles Fairchild, former treasury secretary (1887-1889) during Cleveland’s first term; Henry Watterson, editor of the Louisville Courier-Journal; Senator John Carlisle of Kentucky, who would serve as treasury secretary in the second Cleveland administration (1893-1897); and William C. Whitney, former secretary of the Navy during Cleveland’s first term (1885-1889) and his campaign manager in 1892.

1892 election.  A boxing match between free trader Grover Cleveland
and Republican Protectionist Benjamin Harrison.

This cartoon uses a traditional motif by depicting the 1892 presidential election as a boxing match between the two parties’ nominees, Republican Benjamin Harrison (left) and Democrat Grover Cleveland (right). However, the title’s reference to “Ex-Champion” and “Second Round” indicate what was unique about the campaign: it was the only election in American history to pit two men who had already been president against each other. As the incumbent, Harrison had served since March 1889, while Cleveland’s first term had extended from March 1885 to the beginning of his Republican rival’s inauguration. Other former presidents in American history ran for a non-sequential term—Martin Van Buren in 1848, Millard Fillmore in 1856, and Theodore Roosevelt in 1912—but they were nominated by third parties and their opponents had never held the presidential office.

Here, Cleveland is still on the floor with a swollen eye from their original match in 1888, when he lost the presidency to Harrison. Democratic leaders try various methods to revive their candidate, but are not having success. The crew encircling Cleveland consists of (left-right): campaign manager William Whitney holding a “Boodle” sponge (indicating graft money) and a “Flattery” fan; publisher Joseph Pulitzer with his “N. Y. World Corruption Fund” tonic; New York Sun editor Charles Dana administering electric shocks about the Republican Force Bill; and, Senator David B. Hill who is assisting Dana. Standing indifferently behind them is Henry Watterson, editor of the Louisville Courier-Journal, who was no longer on speaking terms with Cleveland.

The English Bulldog head on Watterson’s cane and the Union Jack “Free Trade” banner emphasize the Democratic call for tariff reform, which Republicans contended would allow British goods to flood American markets. In contrast, a fit and muscular Harrison wears “Protection” gloves on his clenched fists, while a “Protection” banner modeled on the American flag and topped by the American Eagle stands on the Republican side. The judge (left) is the mascot of the comic weekly, Judge, in which this cartoon was published. Uncle Sam is the match referee, who calls “Time,” as he looks at a watch showing 11 o’clock—a symbol that time is running, or has run, out.

In the right foreground, the “School Boy Letter-Writer” book and the correspondence from Cleveland to a little girl seem to be making fun of Cleveland’s lack of effective communication skills, as well as the Mugwump issue of civil service reform and other good-government policies (“purity and reform”).

Caption:  "Uncle Sam  -  You cannot distract my attention from the real issue. Who is that hiding behind you?" Democrats play the race card in the 1892 election.

While Republicans “waved the bloody shirt” in the late-nineteenth century by associating the Democratic Party with the Civil War rebellion of the Confederacy, Democrats warned white voters that Republicans were trying to install a regime of “Negro Supremacy” in the South. At the time, most blacks lived in Southern states and most black men voted for the Republican Party, so that the race issue was closely tied to partisanship. This was especially true in the 1892 election when Democrats played on racial fears in order to shore up their Southern electoral base.

This Judge cover cartoon reflects the Republican response in 1892 that the issue of “Negro Supremacy” was a “bugaboo”—an imaginary fear—to distract voters from the important question of protective tariffs. In the center foreground, the buck-toothed Democratic Donkey is dressed in the attire of a British dandy with Irish-shamrock cufflinks and watch fob.

Uncle Sam calmly rejects the Democratic scare tactic, and draws attention to the “real issue” of trade policy. Hidden behind the banner is John Bull, the personification of Great Britain, who eagerly awaits to take over American markets should Democratic “free trade” be enacted.

The specific reason for Democrats raising the race issue during the 1892 campaign was the proposed Federal Elections Bill (or “Force Bill,” as critics called it). After the restoration of white-only Democratic governments in Southern states in the 1870s, fraud and intimidation made it increasingly difficult over the ensuing years for black men to cast ballots (usually for Republicans). In the late 1880s, there was a reported upsurge in anti-black violence in the South, which provoked an exodus of blacks to the North and West and renewed calls for federal intervention.

In 1890, the Federal Elections Bill was introduced into Congress by two Massachusetts Republicans, Henry Cabot Lodge in the House and George Frisbie Hoar in the Senate. The measure sought to protect black voting rights in the South by authorizing the national government to supervise federal elections. The Republican-controlled House passed the bill that summer on a strictly partisan vote, all but two Republicans voting aye and all Democrats voting nay. In the Senate, Republicans from Western states were more interested in passing the Sherman Silver Purchase Act and Democrats simply filibustered the Federal Elections Bill to death. It was the first major piece of legislation in American history supported by a president (Republican Benjamin Harrison) and majorities in both houses that was defeated by a Senate filibuster. The bill had no hope of passage in the next Congress when Democrats took control of the House following the fall 1890 elections.

The Federal Elections Bill was the third point (after protective tariffs and trade reciprocity) in the Republican National Platform of 1892. It demanded, “every citizen of the United States shall be allowed to cast one free and unrestricted ballot in all public elections…; that such laws shall be enacted and enforced as will secure to every citizen … this sovereign right …, and the party will never relax its efforts until the integrity of the ballot and the purity of elections shall be fully guaranteed and protected in every State.” In fact, the Federal Elections Bill was the last major effort at voting rights protection until the 1950s.  (Harper's Weekley)

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