public office, and it came to him, like all later preferments, without any solicitation of his own. Two years later (1865) he was the Democratic candidate for district attorney, but was defeated. In 1869 Cleveland was nominated by the Democratic party for the office of sheriff, and, despite the fact that Erie county was normally Republican by a decisive majority, was elected. The years immediately succeeding his retirement from the office of sheriff in 1873 he devoted exclusively to the practice of law, coming to be generally recognized as one of the leaders of the western New York bar. In the autumn of 1881 he was nominated by the Democrats for mayor of Buffalo. The city government had been characterized by extravagance and maladministration, and a revolt of the independent voters at the polls overcame the usual Republican majority and Cleveland was elected. As mayor he attracted wide attention by his independence and business-like methods, and under his direction the various departments of the city government were thoroughly reorganized. His ability received further recognition when in 1882 he was nominated by his party as its candidate for governor. The Republican party in the state was at that time weakened by the quarrels between the “Stalwart” and “Halfbreed” factions within its ranks; and the Democrats were thus given an initial advantage which was greatly increased by the Republicans’ nomination for governor of Charles J. Folger (1818–1884), then secretary of the treasury. Secretary Folger was a man of high character and ability, who had been chief justice of the New York supreme court when placed in control of the treasury department by President Arthur in 1881. But the cry of Federal interference was raised as a result of the methods employed in securing his nomination, and this, together with the party division and the popularity of Cleveland, brought about Cleveland’s election by the unprecedented plurality of 192,854. As governor Cleveland’s course was marked by the sterling qualities that he had displayed in his other public positions. His appointees were chosen for their business qualifications. The demands of party leaders were made subordinate to public interests. He promoted the passage of a good civil service law. All bills passed by the legislature were subjected to the governor’s laborious personal scrutiny, and the veto power was used without fear or favour.
In 1884 the Democratic party had been out of power in national affairs for twenty-three years. In this year, however, the generally disorganized state of the Republican party seemed to give the Democrats an unusual opportunity. Upon a platform which called for radical reforms in the administrative departments, the civil service, and the national finances, Cleveland was nominated for president, despite the opposition of the strong Tammany delegation from his own state. The nominee of the Republican party, James G. Blaine (q.v.) of Maine, had received the nomination only after a contest in which violent personal animosities were aroused. The campaign that followed was one of the bitterest political contests in American history. The Republican party was still further weakened by the defection of a large body of independents, known as “Mugwumps.” The result was close, but Cleveland carried New York, and was elected, obtaining a majority in the electoral college of 219 to 182.
Cleveland’s first term was uneventful, but was marked by firmness, justice and steady adherence on his part to the principles which he deemed salutary to the nation. He was especially concerned in promoting a non-partisan civil service. Congress in 1883 had passed the “Pendleton Bill” (introduced by Senator George H. Pendleton) to classify the subordinate places in the service, and to make entrance to it, and promotion therein, depend upon competitive examination of applicants, instead of mere political influence. The first test of the efficiency and permanence of this law came with the shifting of political power at Washington. The new president stood firmly by the new law. It applied only to places of the rank of clerkships, but the president was authorized to add others to the classified service from time to time. He added 11,757 during his first term.
President Cleveland made large use of the veto power upon bills passed by Congress, vetoing or “pocketing” during his first term 413 bills, more than two-thirds of which were private pension bills. The most important bill vetoed was the Dependent Pension Bill, a measure of extreme profligacy, opening the door, by the vagueness of its terms, to enormous frauds upon the treasury. In 1887 there was a large and growing surplus in the treasury. As this money was drawn from the channels of business and locked up in the public vaults, the president looked upon the condition as fraught with danger to the commercial community and he addressed himself to the task of reducing taxation. About two-thirds of the public revenue was derived from duties on imports, in the adjustment of which the doctrine of protection to native industry had a large place. Cleveland attacked the system with great vigour in his annual message of 1887. He did not propose the adoption of free trade, but the administration tariff measure, known as the Mills Bill, from its introducer Congressman Roger Q. Mills (b. 1832) of Texas, passed the House, and although withdrawn owing to amendments in the Republican Senate, it alarmed and exasperated the protected classes, among whom were many Democrats, and spurred them to extraordinary efforts to prevent his re-election.
In the following year (1888), however, the Democrats renominated Cleveland, and the Republicans nominated Benjamin Harrison of Indiana. The campaign turned on the tariff issue, and Harrison was elected, receiving 233 electoral votes to 168 for Cleveland, who however received a popular plurality of more than 100,000. Cleveland retired to private life and resumed the practice of the law in New York. He had married on the 2nd of June 1886 Miss Frances Folsom, a daughter of a former law partner in Buffalo.
Congress had passed a law in 1878 requiring the treasury department to purchase a certain amount of silver bullion each month and coin it into silver dollars to be full legal tender. As no time had been fixed for this operation to cease, it amounted to an unlimited increase of a kind of currency that circulated at a nominal value much above its real value. Both political parties were committed to this policy, and strong passions were aroused whenever it was called in question. Cleveland had written a letter for publication before he became president, saying that a financial crisis of great severity must result if this coinage were continued, and expressing the hope that Congress would speedily put an end to it. In 1890 Congress, now controlled by the Republican party, passed the McKinley Bill, by which the revenues of the government were reduced by more than $60,000,000 annually, chiefly through a repeal of the sugar duties. At the same time expenditures were largely increased by liberal pension legislation, and the government’s purchase of silver bullion almost doubled by the provisions of the new Sherman Silver Purchase Act of 1890.
In 1892 Cleveland was nominated for president a third time in succession. President Harrison was nominated by the Republicans. Cleveland received 277 electoral votes and Harrison 145, and 22 were cast for James B. Weaver (b. 1833) of Iowa, the candidate of the “People’s” party. Cleveland’s second term embraced some notable events. The most important was the repeal of the silver legislation, which had been a growing menace for fifteen years. Nearly $600,000,000 of “fiat money” had been thrust into the channels of commerce in addition to $346,000,000 of legal tender notes that had been issued during the Civil War. A reserve of $100,000,000 of gold had been accumulated for the redemption of these notes. In April 1893 the reserve fell below this sum. President Cleveland called an extra session of Congress to repeal the Silver Law. The House promptly passed the repealing act. In the Senate there was a protracted struggle. The Democrats now had a majority of that body and they were more decidedly pro-silver than the Republicans. The president had undertaken to coerce his own party to do something against its will, and it was only by the aid of the Republican minority that the passage of the repealing bill was at last made possible (October 30th). The mischief, however, was not ended. The deficit in the treasury made it inevitable that the gold reserve should be used to meet current expenses. Holders of the government’s legal tender notes anticipating this fact presented them for redemption. Borrowing was