Grover Cleveland holds several firsts in Presidential history. (1) He was the first Democrat elected to the office of President after the Civil War. In fact, he was the only Democrat elected to the Presidency between the years 1860–1912. (2) He was (and is) the first President to serve two non-consecutive terms. His first term was 1885-1889. His second term was 1893-1897. Thus, Cleveland is the only President counted twice in the numbering of the Presidents. (3) He was the first President to be married in the White House. John Tyler was the first to get married while in office (it was a second marriage for this widower). However, Cleveland was the first and only President to be married in the White House. It was a first marriage for this bachelor. His bride Frances Folsom (daughter of his previous law partner) became the youngest-ever First Lady (She was twenty-one. He was forty-nine). (4) Esther Cleveland, their child, was the first child of a President to be born in the White House (though, not the first child born in the White House. This honor goes to James Madison Randolph, son of Martha Jefferson Randolph, who was the daughter of Thomas Jefferson).
Our lesson concerns Grover Cleveland and his 1884 run for the White House. A scandal threatened his run. Republicans discovered that Cleveland had fathered an illegitimate child (Oscar Folsom Cleveland) by Maria Crofts Halpin in 1874, while Cleveland was a lawyer in Buffalo, N.Y. Cleveland did not marry Halpin, but did provide child support. Halpin was soon committed to an asylum for alcoholism. Cleveland paid for the child’s keep in an orphanage. Halpin sobered up and Cleveland gave her money to start a business in Niagara Falls. The child was not restored to her. Instead, the child was adopted by a childless couple. The Republicans now chanted, “Ma! Ma! Where’s my pa?”
When the scandal surfaced, “A local Buffalo editor suggested Cleveland name his late law partner, John Folsom as the child’s real father … ‘is this man crazy,’ asked an exasperated Cleveland, ‘is he fool enough to support for a moment … that I would permit my dead friend’s memory to suffer for my sake?’ Cleveland refused to any such thing. He immediately admitted to fathering the child. Memorably, he instructed his campaign aids to ‘tell the truth’” (William J. Bennet, America: The Last Best Hope, Vol. 1, p. 442).
“When Democrats brought him evidence that Mrs. Blaine (his opponent’s wife B.H.) had been pregnant before the Blaine’s marriage, Cleveland grabbed the papers, ripped them up, and threw them in the fire. ‘The other site can have the monopoly on all dirt in this campaign’ he told them’” (ibid.).
1. Do we have the determination to be honest? “Therefore, putting away lying, ‘Let each one of you speak truth with his neighbor’” (Eph. 4:25).
2. Do we abide by “The Golden Rule?” “Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the law and the prophets” (Mt. 7:12).