Today, Grover Cleveland is chiefly known as the only president to have been elected to two nonconsecutive 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, and a vigorous defender of the Monroe Doctrine who resisted American imperialism.
Cleveland’s career in office was plagued by scandal and a gossip-mongering press. During his first presidential bid, he was persecuted for fathering a child out of wedlock, a charge to which Cleveland readily admitted. At the age of forty-nine, he married his twenty-one-year-old ward, and after the nation’s initial surprise, she became the most popular first lady of her day.
On his deathbed, Cleveland would sum up his career simply: “I have tried so hard to do right.”
In graceful and enduring prose, H. Paul Jeffers gives us the first full look at a president whose moral timber and courageous administrations have more to say to today’s politicians than perhaps that of any other leader in American history.
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