Today Grover Cleveland is mainly remembered as the only president to be elected to two non-consecutive terms. But in his day, Cleveland was a renowned reformer, an enemy of political machines who joined forces with Theodore Roosevelt to fight powerful party bosses, a moralist who vetoed bills he considered blatant raids on the Treasury, a vigorous defender of the Monroe Doctrine who resisted American imperialism, and a president who stood his ground against Wall Street robber barons in an era of big business.
His real legacy, however, is his statesmanship. His time in office was plagued by scandal and a gossip-mongering press, but Grover Cleveland was a president of principle who never flinched from taking the high road.
During his first presidential bid, when he was a bachelor, his scheming opponents accused him of fathering a child out of wedlock, a charge Cleveland readily admitted to be true. The country forgot the charge and remembered Cleveland's candor. At the age of 49, he married his ward, the beautiful 21-year-old daughter of an old friend. After the nation's initial surprise, she became the most popular first lady of the day, a 19th-century Jacqueline Kennedy, and the mother of the first child born in the White House.
On his deathbed, Cleveland would sum up his career simply: "I have tried so hard to do right." And that he did, always acting according to the dictates of his conscience, taking responsibility for his actions and refusing to explain, excuse, or aggrandize himself through autobiography, library, or museum. Thus, Grover the Good, as he was called, ever remained...an honest president.
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