Grover Cleveland

Who was the first and only U.S. President to serve non-consecutive terms?

And the answer: Grover Cleveland.    

Photo credit: whitehouse.gov. 

Serving two terms in the late 1800s, Grover Cleveland was the 22nd and the 24th President of the United States. Between terms, he worked at a law firm, and his wife gave birth to their famous first daughter, named Baby Ruth.

Grover Cleveland joined politics at a critical time in United States history. The son of a Presbyterian minister and one of nine children in his family, Cleveland was born in New Jersey and raised in New York State, where much of his career took place. Cleveland's politics were quickly recognized as "no-nonsense"— he used his veto power extensively in mayoral and gubernatorial positions to block unnecessary spending and corruption. For an American public exhausted by the scandals of Gilded Age politicians, Cleveland was a breath of fresh air.

Cleveland's first presidency was marked by the same no-nonsense attitude toward spending and unjust spoils systems around the White House. Once again, Cleveland’s rejection of wasteful and corrupt measures endeared the president to citizens who admired his honesty and courage. Cleveland also received credit for two of the more significant measures enacted by the federal government in the 1880s: the Interstate Commerce Act (1887), which established the first regulatory agency in the United States, and the Dawes General Allotment Act (1887), which redistributed Native American reservation land to individual tribe members.

Cleveland ran for reelection in 1888. While he won a majority of the popular vote, he lost the electoral college vote to Benjamin Harrison, who enjoyed lavish campaign contributions from business interests in the battleground states of New York and Indiana. For the next four years of Harrison's presidency, Cleveland returned to New York to work at a prominent law firm. Yet, when the Republican-dominated congress enacted a tariff which quickly drained the treasury surplus, the path to a 1892 Democratic win seemed clear. Cleveland won his party’s nomination for the third consecutive time and then soundly defeated Harrison and Populist Party candidate James B. Weaver by 277 electoral votes to Harrison’s 145, making Cleveland the only president ever elected to discontinuous terms.

Learn more about Grover Cleveland here.


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