Young Grover Cleveland’s father was a minister, and he learned to be truthful from an early age. In politics Cleveland gained a reputation for reform as the mayor of Buffalo and governor of New York. He also gained weight thanks to his fondness for food and beer, though he was not a fan of the French cooking served in the White House.
During the 1884 presidential election the forthright Cleveland was accused of having an illegitimate son. Cleveland insisted on supporting the boy financially even though he may have been covering up for a married friend. (Cleveland did not marry until after he became president).
Cleveland’s decisions as president were somewhat contradictory. On the one hand, he refused to sign a bill that would have helped struggling farmers because he believed that government should take a limited role in people’s lives.
On the other hand, he created the Interstate Commerce Commission which eliminated the authority of individual states to set rates on interstate traffic. Cleveland’s subsequent fights with big business prevented him from being re-elected in 1888.
Yet Cleveland was not ready to retire. He ran again for president four years later and won, becoming the only president elected to non-consecutive terms.
His second term was marked by health problems and the worst economic depression up to that time. Though doctors successfully removed a tumor from his mouth, Cleveland’s poor health made him increasingly stubborn. During the Pullman strike in Chicago he sent in federal troops to break it up, asserting that presidents could interfere in a labor dispute if it endangered the country’s economy.