American Presidents

Chester Arthur American Presidents Teacher Guide

The Early Life and 1st Administration of President Grover Cleveland
August 13, 1999 on C-SPAN
Recommended Use:
Secondary Level

"Biographical information on Grover Cleveland, the twenty-second president, will inform United States history students and will be a catalyst for further study on domestic issues in his first term. The lesson will focus on biographical description, the election of 1884, and his accomplishments as president from 1885 to 1889. Losing the next election to Benjamin Harrison, Grover Cleveland became the twenty-fourth president after winning the election of 1892. A separate lesson will feature his second administration from 1893-1897." - Martha L. Dailey


  • Videotape of C-SPAN's American Presidents program featuring Grover Cleveland

  • C-SPAN's American Presidents web site.

  • A United States history text

  • The United States Constitution

Before Viewing American Presidents
Tell students they are about to learn about the life of the 22nd US President Grover Cleveland. Ask students to share anything they might already know about this president at this time.

Prepare students to view C-SPAN's American Presidents Life Portrait program on Grover Cleveland by reviewing the following topics (which you may duplicate and distribute):

  • Biographical information
  • The presidential election of 1884
  • Domestic issues of Grover Cleveland's first administration

While Viewing American Presidents
Directions: Answer the questions from either Part 1, 2 or 3. In addition to C-SPAN's American Presidents video and web site, students can use other print and electronic sources to complete all the questions.

Part 1: Biographical Information
1. Who was Grover Cleveland named after?

2. Briefly describe his childhood.

3. Comment on his religious training and education.

4. Grover Cleveland's personality could be described as complex. Explain.

5. Describe the relationship he had with Maria C. Halpern.

6. Note his public service career before becoming president; name the city he was elected mayor of in 1882 and the state he served as governor from 1883-1885.

7. Choose two adjectives that are characteristic of his service in the two positions.

8. Which sibling of Grover Cleveland was White House hostess during his bachelor years?

9. Grover Cleveland was the only president to be married in the White House. In the Blue Room in 1886, whom did he marry?

10. Describe his unique relationship with the woman who became the youngest first lady ever.

11. How many children did they have?

12. Which child was the only child of a president to be born in the White House itself?

Part 2: The Presidential Election of 1884
1. The following is Grover Cleveland's slogan as Governor of New York: "Public office is a public trust." What does that mean?

2. Grover Cleveland was known to be imperturbable. What does that mean?

3. James G. Blaine, from Maine, was the Republican candidate in the 1884 election; what was his nickname?

4. The Republican position on the issue of the tariff was "protectionism" and they wanted to raise rates. Explain.

5. The Democratic position on the issue of the tariff was for revenue only and they wanted to lower rates. Explain.

6. James G. Blaine supported the "spoils system." Explain.

7. Who were the "Mugwumps" and why did they bolt from the Republican party?

8. Grover Cleveland was chosen as a "reform candidate" and stressed his leadership of a far reaching moral movement. How popular are moral issues in present day elections?

9. According to historian Bernard Bailyn, the campaign of 1884 was "a comedy of errors that dramatized the poverty of ideas besetting both parties." Both candidates gave speeches that were rife with "political platitudes." Explain.

10. Slander and character assassination were the methods of party political managers on both sides; What are the political party messages of the following rhymes:

  • Ma! MA! Where's my pa? Gone to the White House- HA! HA! HA!
  • Blaine! Blaine! James G. Blaine! The Continental Liar from the State of Maine! Burn this letter!
11. What was Grover Cleveland's response when a prenuptial paternity charge was made by the Buffalo Evening Telegraph?

12. What were the "Mulligan Letters" and how did they hurt James G. Blaine's candidacy?

13. Republican party managers could be said to have made two mistakes in the New York campaign. Candidate Blaine did not respond to Rev. Samuel D. Burchard's criticism of the Democrats as the party of "Rum, Romanism, and Rebellion." Explain his point of view. James G. Blaine lost the Irish Catholic vote in New York. Why?

14. Another mistake in the campaign was a fundraiser dinner for New York millionaires in a lavish restaurant in New York City when unemployment was high. Attending were John Jacob Astor and Jay Gould; identify these individuals.

15. In the presidential election of 1884, Grover Cleveland, the Democrat, won 4,911,017 votes or 49% of the popular vote; James G. Blaine, the Republican, won 4,848,334 votes or 48% of the popular vote. Explain the electoral college vote which resulted: Grover Cleveland won 219 electoral college votes; James G. Blaine won 182 electoral college votes.

16. James G. Blaine lost New York by 1,149 votes out of a million cast; how significant were the "mistakes" discussed above?

Part 3: Domestic Issues of Grover Cleveland's First Administration
1. President Grover Cleveland's Vice President, Thomas A. Hendricks of Indiana died in office after serving less than nine months. The Presidential Succession Act was subsequently passed by Congress in 1886; for 12 days from Hendrick's death until John Sherman was elected president pro tem of the Senate, no one stood in the line of presidential succession. What sequence did the Act provide? How does that differ from the twenty-fifth amendment to the U.S. Constitution passed in the Lyndon Johnson administration?

2. President Cleveland vetoed hundreds of pension and private relief bills. He said, "I ought to have a monument over me when I die-not for anything I have ever done, but for the foolishness I have put a stop to." Explain.

3. The Interstate Commerce Act of 1887 was the first federal regulatory agency.

  • What was it meant to do?
  • How did the law fall short of its goal?
4. The Dawes Severalty Act of 1887 was inspired by a Helen Hunt Jackson's book, A Century of Dishonor.
  • What was the intention of the legislation?
  • What was the ultimate effect on the Native American population?

5. The Hatch Act passed in 1887 as complementary legislation to the Morrill Act of 1862. Assess the effectiveness of this legislation.

6. A tariff reduction was one stand that Grover Cleveland supported; was any action taken in this administration?

After Viewing American Presidents
Think, pair, share Activity
Allowing research time, students should complete their chosen study outline from the previous activity before proceeding to this section.

1. Think: Choose three items of interest from your study outline. Reflect for two or three minutes on how you will explain those items to another student in the class who has not prepared this part of the assignment.

2. Pair: Find a student in the class who has completed one of the other assignments above.

3. Share: You will then use two or three minutes to share your insights. Afterward, your partner will share insights with you.

4. The teacher will then ask several students what they have learned from this exercise and invite students to make connections between Grover Cleveland's biographical information, his election and the domestic issues of his first administration.

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