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Grover Cleveland: A Study in Character

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Grover Cleveland: A Study in Character is the first comprehensive study of our 22nd and 24th president in nearly seventy years. This distinguished leader, the only Democrat elected to the presidency between the Civil War and World War I, rose to political prominence through the ranks of mayor of Buffalo and governor of New York before his election to this nation's highest office.

Always concerned with the majority, never the favored few, Cleveland believed his ultimate ...

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Overview

Grover Cleveland: A Study in Character is the first comprehensive study of our 22nd and 24th president in nearly seventy years. This distinguished leader, the only Democrat elected to the presidency between the Civil War and World War I, rose to political prominence through the ranks of mayor of Buffalo and governor of New York before his election to this nation's highest office.

Always concerned with the majority, never the favored few, Cleveland believed his ultimate allegiance was to the nation, not to a political party, and he acted on his strongly-held beliefs throughout his entire political life. At first considered an enemy of labor because of his firm handling of the bloody Chicago Pullman strike, many historians have overlooked Cleveland's numerous accomplishments, including his heroic quest to improve the quality of life for American Indians, his battles against the railroads and big business to prevent the destruction of American land, and his insistence on tariff reduction and remaining on the Gold Standard, which saved the nation from bankruptcy. The only president to be elected to two nonconsecutive terms, Grover Cleveland was the only president to be married in the White House and also the first to have a child in the White House.

Brodsky's engrossing work follows Grover Cleveland through his early life in upstate New York, his career as a trial lawyer, mayor, and governor through to his first and second presidencies and his last years as a lecturer and beloved member of the administration at Princeton University. Each chapter will cause readers to reevaluate our perception of this underrated President who, in his dying words said, "I tried so hard to do right," and to evaluate him in the context of his successors.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This admiring (indeed near-hagiographic) revisionist biography seeks to portray Grover Cleveland--the only Democrat elected to the presidency between the Civil War and WWI-as a model of integrity and honor: "To compare Cleveland with our four most deplorable post-Harding presidents--Nixon, Reagan, Bush, and Clinton--is to contrast a paradigm of virtue with the quintessence of duplicity." Brodsky, a historian and book critic for the Miami Herald and other papers, praises this Presbyterian minister's son for attacking corruption, cleaning up the civil service, enacting tariff and pension reforms and opposing the spoliation of the West by a land-grabbing clique of railroads, cattle barons and lumber companies. Yet Cleveland was basically a political and social conservative. Though he ran for president in 1884 as one who would challenge the power of monopolies and big business, once in office, he essentially served their interests. Cleveland called out federal troops to crush the Chicago Pullman strike in 1894 (12 were killed, 515 arrested). Brodsky lamely argues that Cleveland was sympathetic to the labor movement, but saw his primary duty as upholding the law, ensuring mail delivery and supporting interstate commerce. The author justifiably praises our 22nd/24th president as an anti-imperialist who refused to recognize a Hawaiian government set up largely by U.S. planters, yet he concedes that, in foreign affairs, Cleveland's achievements were insignificant. Cleveland may arguably have been the best president between Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, but that's not saying much, and this earnest if colorful biography fails to provide the kind of hard-nosed reassessment that might restore the luster to a president whose missteps severely weakened the Democratic Party for decades. Photos. (Sept.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Grover Cleveland bought his way out of the Civil War draft, may have fathered an illegitimate daughter, and married someone 27 years his junior. Whereas some may see a theme in these events that helps explain his later conservative Victorian behavior, popular historian Brodsky (The Kings Depart; Madame Lunch & Friend) writes an old-fashioned political biography of America's 22d and 24th chief executive--the first major one in more than a half-century. He regards the split-term president as the nation's most underrated chief executive and the best of the eight who served between Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. In the short run, notes Brodsky, Cleveland lost public favor but lived long enough to regain it. On the other hand, his workaholic and inflexible style often undermined his effectiveness. Except for an occasional negative comparison to some recent contemporary presidents, this account is balanced, readable, and worthwhile. Recommended for public and academic libraries.--William D. Pederson, Louisiana State Univ., Shreveport Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.\
Kirkus Reviews
A thorough examination of Cleveland's life, focusing on his commitment to maintaining personal morality in the face of Victorian America's notoriously corrupt power structure.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312268831
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 9/28/2000
  • Edition description: First Edition
  • Pages: 512
  • Product dimensions: 6.44 (w) x 9.56 (h) x 1.57 (d)

Meet the Author

Author of three earlier biographies, Alyn Bordsky was also Editorial Director of two multi-volume encyclopedias, one on American History, the other on the Bible. He has also lectured on history and classical music, served as a combat correspondent and the feature writer, movie critic, and columnist for Pacific Stars & Stripes, and has been a book critic and columnist for a number of U.S. newspapers. He is currently working on a biography of Frances Folsom Cleveland, Grover Cleveland's wife.

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