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Stephen Grover Cleveland, President of the United States

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Stephen Grover Cleveland, President of the United States

1884-1888 and 1892-1896

Stephen Grover Cleveland was the 22nd and 24th president of the United States. He was the first Democrat to be elected after the Civil War, and the only president to leave the White House and then be elected for a second term four years later.

Grover Cleveland was born on March 18, 1837 in Caldwell, New Jersey. He was the fifth of nine children born to Richard Falley Cleveland, a Presbyterian minister, and Ann Neal Cleveland. The family later moved to Fayetteville, New York where Cleveland attended the Clinton Liberal Institute. Cleveland's father died suddenly in 1853 and left sixteen year old Cleveland without hope for attending college. His older brother, a teacher at the New York Institute for the Blind hired him on as a teacher. Cleveland left his teaching post two years later to look for work in Cleveland, Ohio. On his way, Cleveland stopped to visit his uncle, Lewis Allen, a wealthy cattle breeder in Buffalo. Allen convinced Cleveland to stay and helped him obtain a job. After studying law under one of his uncle's friends, in 1859 Cleveland was admitted to the New York bar. He was immediately offered a job in one of the best law offices in Buffalo, which he accepted. When Cleveland was drafted for the Civil War, he hired a substitute to serve in his place, a common practice permitted by law.

Cleveland began his political career in 1862 as Democratic Supervisor of his Buffalo ward. In 1863 he was appointed assistant district attorney, where he crusaded against crime and corruption. In 1870 he ran for Sheriff of Erie County and won. As sheriff he continued his crusade against corruption. In 1881 a group of Buffalo citizens asked him to run for mayor because of his work against corruption. He easily won the election and took office in 1882. He became known as the "veto mayor" because of the bills he vetoed in an effort to halt the political graft that was rampant in both parties. Later he was elected Governor of New York, running on a platform of honesty and independence. Governor Cleveland continued his battle against corruption and acquired a reputation as the "veto governor".

In July 1884 the Democrats nominated Grover Cleveland for president. The Democrats felt that with his reputation and public record, Cleveland could easily win the votes of both democrats and reform republicans, the Mugwumps, who found the record of the Republican nominee James Blain objectionable. There were few real issues, and the campaign degenerated into personal attacks. The Democrats published the "Mulligan Letters" in an attempt to prove Blaine was guilty of aiding the railroads at public expense. The Republicans retaliated by accusing Cleveland of fathering an illegitimate child. Cleveland had already acknowledged this and accepted responsibility.

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