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Grover Cleveland (The American Presidents Series) Hardcover – August 20, 2002

3.9 out of 5 stars 49 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this brief, excellent volume written for Arthur Schlesinger's American Presidents series, Columbia professor emeritus Graff (The Tuesday Cabinet) picks up the often neglected Grover Cleveland, dusts him off and reminds us how substantial he was. After serving as mayor of Buffalo and governor of New York, Cleveland (1837-1908) was the first Democrat to be elected president after the Civil War. He forced America's railroad titans to return 81,000,000 western acres previously granted by the federal government and regulated them with the Interstate Commerce Act. Although defeated in the electoral college by Benjamin Harrison in 1888, Cleveland won the popular vote, which set the stage for his return to the presidency in 1892 in the midst of nationwide depression. As usual, Cleveland acted decisively. He repealed the inflationary Sherman Silver Purchase Act and, with the aid of Wall Street, maintained the Treasury's gold reserve. When Chicago railroad strikers violated an injunction against further disruption, Cleveland dispatched federal troops. Cleveland's no-nonsense treatment of the strikers stirred many Americans, as did the way he forced Great Britain to accept arbitration of a disputed boundary in Venezuela. But many of Cleveland's hard-hitting policies during the depression proved unpopular in the long term; in 1896, his party nominated William Jennings Bryan for the presidency. In clean, matter-of-fact prose, Graff sums up the plainspoken Cleveland as a man of action and uncompromising integrity a man who, though publicly identified as the father of a bastard child, nevertheless restored dignity to the office of the president in the wake of several weak administrations.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

As part of the "American Presidents" series under the editorial direction of Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr., distinguished historian Graff (America: The Glorious Republic, to 1877) offers new insight into a President who is often overlooked. Best known as the only President to serve two nonconsecutive terms, Cleveland does indeed deserve Graff's fresh examination. The 1888 Presidential election was marked by one of the earliest and most virulent attacks on the personal behavior of a candidate when Cleveland was accused of fathering a child out of wedlock. But the candidate took full responsibility for the child (an act Graff refers to as "the gold standard" for such circumstances), and in the end the incident did not cause Cleveland to lose the election. Graff's examination of the 1888 election is one of the finest short reviews of that peculiar race available. Cleveland had a narrow view of the President's powers and did not exert the more expansive leadership that would characterize later Presidents. But he was an able administrator and pursued a clean-government agenda. This slim volume is a valuable addition to the literature on the Presidency and is a compelling argument for taking Cleveland seriously as a President. For political collections of public libraries.
Michael A. Genovese, Loyola Marymount Univ., Los Angeles
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Times Books; 1st edition (August 20, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0805069232
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805069235
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (49 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #241,621 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Top Customer Reviews

By Steven Peterson TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on March 23, 2008
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you want great detail on the presidents, this book series, "The American Presidents," will not be for you. If, however, you would like to get better introduced to some of the Presidents with some quick reads, this series could be very attractive. "Grover Cleveland," written by Henry Graff, is one book in the series. At the outset, I will say that this is a nice introduction to Grover Cleveland; if you want lots of detail, though, this book will not be for you.

That said, this is up to the usual dependable quality of works in this series. The book begins by placing the Cleveland family in context (e.g., I had never guessed that one of Cleveland's predecessors was a founder of Cleveland, Ohio, after whom the city was named!). The story of Cleveland's political career began in earnest when he served as Mayor of Buffalo, NY. This served as a launching point for his accession as Governor of New York. In the latter role, he distinguished himself as a "reformer."

After that, as a result of a confluence of events, he was nominated for President as a Democrat. While running for office (not that candidates did much in the way of campaigning), it came out that Cleveland may have fathered a child out of wedlock. Indicative of Cleveland's reputation, when asked what his "handlers" should do, he said, "Tell the truth." Rather refreshing!

Once elected, he served as a competent president, with some accomplishments in his first term. He was defeated when he ran for re-election, with Benjamin Harrison ousting him from office. However, four years later, he was re-elected to serve the White House. There were many challenges in his second term, some beyond his control. There was also the medical problem that was kept from public eye.
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Format: Hardcover
This is the fourth installment of an exciting new series in which major presidential scholars provide brief, critical biographies of all the American presidents. Arthur Schlesinger, who among many other things is famous for his overseeing the group of presidential scholars who rank all the American presidents, edits the series. In the most recent version of Schlesinger's list, Grover Cleveland is ranked 12th out of 39 presidents, at the top of the "Above Average" category and just missing the "Near Great" presidents. As Graff, the author of this volume, puts it, "Grover Cleveland is the best Unknown President." And that is the great virtue of this series: not in providing short biographies of figures like Abraham Lincoln and FDR, but less well known figures like Cleveland, and such future subjects as Martin Van Buren and James Buchanan.
While Grover Cleveland emerges in this biography as an admirable, laudable, and highly capable president, he also strikes the reader today, as he did Americans in the late 19th century, as a terribly unexciting person. Of our better presidents, Cleveland was unquestionably the one with the least outgoing personality. Being respectful, one might describe him as "solid" rather than "dull." Although not someone possessed with a great deal of charisma, he was nonetheless impressive by his own great personal honesty and integrity, and the enormous amount of hard work he put into his job. After a series of presidents whose time in office was marred by corruption, Cleveland did a great deal to restore integrity and respect to the White House.
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Format: Hardcover
This short book is part of "The American Presidents" series edited by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr. The series devotes a short volume to the life and accomplishments of each American President. The books in the series can be read quickly, and each gives the reader an overview of the life and accomplishments of an important American figure. It is a worthy goal to encourage people to get a working understanding of our presidents and part of an attempt to reeducate Americans about their country and government. The series, Schelsinger states in his introductory note, will "give readers some understanding of the pitfalls and potentialities of the presidency and also of the responsiblities of citizenship".
Professor Graff's short study of the life of Grover Cleveland (1837-1908) fulfills the aim of the series. The book consists of a brief biography of Cleveland and covers his youth, his public (and some of his private) life before he became president, his two presidencies, and his life in retirement. The accomplishments of each of his two terms are summarized, if briefly.
As do most writers who have studied Cleveland, Professor Graff finds his strength in his integrity and common sense. He was able to persuade his fellow Americans, both before and during his presidency of his honesty. Cleveland was a President without charisma and an uninspiring public speaker. He regretted his entire life his lack of a college education, and his career shows something of a discomfort with new ideas or new approaches. Yet, he was able to turn these traits, together with his own strengths into advantages. He proved a capable and inspiring President.
Professor Graff does not engage in hero-worship. If anything, I thought that he somewhat undervalued Cleveland and his accomplishment.
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