Grover Cleveland

Grover Cleveland First Term Event Timeline

March 04, 1885

Grover Cleveland (22) First Term Event Timeline

03/04/1885 – 03/04/1889

06/03/1884 - 06/06/1884

Republican National Convention meets in Chicago. Former Secretary of State James G. Blaine defeats President Arthur on the fourth ballot for the nomination of the Republican National Convention. This is the last time an incumbent President seeking renomination is rejected by his party.


Remarks of Republican Nominee, James G. Blaine on receiving notification of his nomination.

07/08/1884 - 07/11/1884

Democratic National Convention of 1884 meets in Chicago. Nominates Grover Cleveland and Thomas A. Hendricks for President and vice president, respectively.


James G. Blaine Letter formally accepting the Republican nomination.


Remarks of Democratic Nominee, Grover Cleveland on receiving notification of his nomination.


Grover Cleveland Letter formally accepting the Democratic nomination.


Election Day. Cleveland, then Governor of New York, wins 54.6% of the Electoral College and 48.9% of the popular vote. He defeats Republican James G. Blaine (48.2% of the popular vote and 45.4% of the Electoral College). Cleveland is the first post-Civil War President not to have served in the Union army. Unlike Blaine, Cleveland did not overtly campaign. The campaign was intense and memorable for a Republican rhyme mocking Cleveland's alleged illegitimate child.




Inaugural Address.


By Proclamation prohibits non-native settlement of Oklahoma lands in Native American territory.


The Statue of Liberty arrives (unassembled) by boat on this day in New York.


Former president Ulysses S. Grant dies, and all offices of the executive branch close at 1:00 p.m. in his memory.


By Proclamation prohibits "all persons other than Indians" from grazing cattle in the Cheyenne and Arapahoe Native reservations.


By Proclamation orders the forcible removal of "any and every unlawful enclosure" on public land.


By Executive Order, as cholera spreads throughout Europe, Cleveland appoints a physician authorized to study the disease and prevent its spread to the United States.


By Proclamation 274 declares that an emergency exists in the Territory of Washington that justifies the use of military force to restore order. The precipitating events included the Chinese Expulsion of Tacoma and other violence in Seattle directed against Chinese immigrants. Troops were deployed to Seattle, and later four companies left for Tacoma.


Executive Order on the occasion of the death in office of Vice President Thomas Hendrick.


First Annual State of the Union Message.


By Special Message, informs Congress of the claim of Cheyenne Indians of Montana of the inadequacy of their appropriations. Request legislative authorization of additional funds.




Signs the Presidential Succession Act into law (24 Stat 1), which specifies that, in case of the absence or inability of the President and Vice President, the Secretaries of the Executive Departments succeed to the presidency in order of creation of their departments.


By Special Message, asks Congress to approve a bill authorizing the use of funds to purchase land in Miami from its Native American residents.


By Proclamation announces intent to use force against “unlawful assemblages” in Washington State amid anti-Chinese riots in Seattle. About 200 Chinese were eventually expelled by boat headed for San Francisco.


In a lengthy Special Message, objects to Senate Committee demands for all papers relating to the consideration of nominees to office--and thus to his exact reasoning in making a nomination. "They assume the right of the Senate to sit in judgment upon the exercise of my exclusive discretion and Executive function, for which I am solely responsible to the people from whom I have so lately received the sacred trust of office." Senate Republicans subsequently retreat from their demands.


Special Message to Congress on the status of U.S.-China diplomatic relations following widespread anti-Chinese sentiment.


In a lengthy message, vetoes an act to "quiet" the title of settlers on the Des Moines River lands, which would reclaim private land in Iowa as public. He argues that while there are many controversies related to this land, they can be appropriately settled by the State of Iowa and its courts. The Senate overrode the veto on 06/29/1886 but the House sustained it on 07/1/1886.


Special Message to Congress, asserting that labor is a vital element of national prosperity and should be of concern to the federal government. He calls for the establishment of an agency that would deal with the voluntary arbitration of labor disputes. He stated that workingmen feel there is a "discrimination in favor of capital as an object of governmental attention." This is apparently the first Presidential message on labor.


Following two days of very large labor rallies in favor of the eight-hour day, a relatively small group of demonstrators at the McCormick Reaper Plant was attacked by police resulting in one death.


At a demonstration to protest the police violence of 05/03/1886, a dynamite bomb was thrown--a "first" in US domestic conflict. Seven police and four workers died from the blast. Subsequently, 10 alleged anarchists were arrested and tried for murder (despite lack of evidence that any had possessed or thrown the bomb). On August 20, 1886, the defendants were found guilty. Four were hanged on November 10, 1886. This has become known as the Haymarket Affair.


Vetoes two military pensions bills (Abigail Smith, and Andrew J. Hill). These are the first of 255 vetoes referring to pensions. Objects to passing special enactments that reverse decisions of the Pension Bureau. Calls such practice "exceedingly questionable" because the Bureau is better equipped than a Congressional committee "to judge the merits of these claims."


Special Message calling for Congress to reassemble the Utah legislature for the purpose of reappropriating funds for the territory of Utah.


Special Message formally accepting the Statue of Liberty from France.


Marries Frances Folsom, becoming the first and only president to be married at the White House. The wedding is an object of intense media interest. The bride is 21 years old.


Vetoes an act to grant a pension to Joseph Romiser. The House overrode the veto on 07/16/1886 and the Senate overrode the veto on 08/03/1886 (24 Stat 870). Romiser, as a member of a volunteer company, was not clearly shown to be in the service of the United States military at the time of his injury (due to an accidental musket discharge). Cleveland objects that the veteran's pension is unjustified based on the facts of the case.


Vetoes an act to provide for the erection of a public building in the city of Dayton, Ohio. The Senate and the House overrode the veto on 03/03/1887 (24 Stat 544). Cleveland had objected that Dayton had only two public buildings that did not appear so inadequate as to justify an expense of $150,000.  


By Proclamation suspends the import of goods on Spanish vessels from Cuba and Puerto Rico amid tensions with Spain.


Remarks at the unveiling and dedication of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor on Bedloe's Island.


Second Annual State of the Union Message. Notes the "cruel treatment of inoffensive Chinese" in Western states and territories. Notes conflicts with Britain over fisheries rights. Importance of the Hawaiian Islands and the need for telegraphic communications with them.


The American Federation of Labor is founded at a convention in Columbus, Ohio. The AFL (later joined with the Congress of Industrial Organizations, CIO) focused on "pure unionism" and stressed the right to collective bargaining about all aspects of working conditions.




Signs the Interstate Commerce Act (24 Stat 379) which creates and empowers the Interstate Commerce Commission (ICC).  The goal is to control competition and stabilize rates charged by interstate railroads. Initially, the ICC was part of the Department of Interior, not an "independent commission." Later regulatory authority of the ICC would extend to motor carriers, barges, and airlines.


Signs An Act to Provide for the Allotment of Lands in Severalty to Indians on the Various Reservations (24 Stat 388). This Act, also known as the Dawes Act,  or General Allotment Act, divides tribal lands into individual allotments with the goal of encouraging assimilation into U.S. society. The Act required "reversion" of tribal lands not allocated to individual Indians to revert back to the U.S. for reallocation to non-Indians.  "Every Indian. . .who has voluntarily taken up. . . his residence separate and apart from any tribe of Indians therein, and has adopted the habits of civilized life, is hereby declared to be a citizen of the United States. . . " (24 Stat 390) This Act was met with Indian hostility. The Act has been seen as precipitating the Wounded Knee massacre in 1890.


Vetoes Dependent Pension Bill, which would have granted a military pension to any person who served 90 days or more. This veto was sustained by the House on 02/24/1887. "Upon a careful consideration of the language of the section of this bill above given it seems to me to be so uncertain and liable to such conflicting constructions and to be subject to such unjust and mischievous application as to alone furnish sufficient ground for disapproving the proposed legislation."


Vetoes a bill authorizing the Commissioner of Agriculture to distribute seeds to portions of Texas suffering a devastating drought. "I can find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution. . . A prevalent tendency to disregard the limited mission of this power and duty should, I think, be steadfastly resisted, to the end that the lesson should be constantly enforced that though the people support the Government the Government should not support the people."


Signs the Hatch Act (24 Stat 440) giving funds to each land-grant college to create agricultural experiment stations and disseminate information relevant to farming.


Signs act repealing the Tenure of Office Act of 1867 (24 Stat 500). See Special Message (above) of 03/01/1886 criticizing Senate attempts to constrain presidential choice under the Act.


By Executive order regulates the distribution of arms, ordinance stores, quartermaster’s stores and camp equipage to the territories and District of Columbia for the militia of the U.S.


By Proclamation suspends tonnage and lighthouse duties on vessels from the Netherlands and the Dutch Indies.


By Executive order closes the executive offices to mourn the death of former president James A. Garfield.


By Executive order, directs the return of Southern battle flags that had been in storage at the War Department. This order generated great controversy and many, including Senators, wrote Cleveland to say the flags should be burned, not returned.


In reaction to the public outcry generated by his order of 06/07/1887, issues another executive order saying he has considered the matter "with more care" and concluded that returning the Confederate flags is "not authorized by existing law." Direction as to the final disposition of the flags should originate in Congress.


Under pressure from an armed militia known as "The Honolulu Rifles," linked to wealthy owners--mostly Americans--of sugar plantations, Hawaiian King Kalakaua signs a new constitution transferring power to the legislature and grating suffrage to foreigners by linking voting rights to property ownership. This was known as the Bayonet Constitution. Six years later the same forces will again push for Hawaiian annexation by the US.


By Proclamation suspends discriminating tonnage and import duties on Spanish vessels to the United States.

09/30/1887 - 10/22/1887

Tour of West and South.


Third Annual State of the Union Message. The message was very unusual in being devoted entirely to tariff reform. This has been regarded as marking an activist shift in Cleveland's stance toward legislative leadership.


Nominates Lucius Q.C. Lamar to the Supreme Court. Lamar was confirmed by the Senate on 1/16/88 (despite an adverse recommendation from the Judiciary Committee); sworn in on 1/18/88. In 1861, Lamar had helped draft the Ordinance of Secession of Mississippi. He had served the Confederacy in several high posts. This fact made this nomination quite controversial. Some saw this as a gesture toward the South to ameliorate sectionalism lingering after the Civil War.


By Proclamation states that the territory claimed by the State of Texas in Greer County, Texas is in fact US Public Land and warns against attempting to purchase such land.




Executive order revokes Civil Service rules and promulgates new rules for the Civil Service Commission.  The New York Times points out that "not one of the original rules [proposed by the Commission] has been left untouched."


By Proclamation suspends tonnage duties on vessels from the Island of Guadalupe.


Nominates Melville W. Fuller to the Supreme Court. He was confirmed by the Senate on 07/20/1888; sworn in 10/08/1888. As Chief Justice he authored the 1895 decision in Pollock v. Farmers' Loan that held income tax to be unconstitutional. He also joined the majority opinion in Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896.


Signs an act authorizing the President to arrange, in 1889, the International Conference of American Nations (25 Stat 155) to encourage "business intercourse" and "to encourage reciprocal commercial relations."

06/05/1888 - 06/07/1888

Democratic National Convention in St. Louis, MO. Cleveland renominated on June 6. Official Letter of nomination presented to Cleveland on June 26.


Signs Act establishing a Department of Labor (25 Stat 182). The Department is to provide useful information on labor's "relation to capital, the hours of labor, the earnings of laboring men and women, and the means of promoting their material, social, intellectual, and moral prosperity."


Senator Benjamin Harrison nominated for president at the Republican National Convention.


Cleveland Remarks on receiving official notification of his nomination for President.


By Letter, Cleveland formally accepts the Democratic Party Nomination.


Harrison, by letter, formally accepts the Republican nomination.


Signs the Arbitration Act (25 Stat 501) providing for voluntary arbitration of railway disputes, and authorizing the President to appoint a commission to investigate labor disputes, reporting back to the President and Congress. This is a partial realization of legislation he requested on 04/22/1886 (see above).


Signs the Scott Act (25 Stat 504), prohibiting Chinese laborers who depart from the United States for any reason may not lawfully return to the United States. This is an amendment to the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act (22 Stat 59).


Election Day. Cleveland wins the popular vote (with 48.6%) but loses the electoral vote to his opponent, Republican Benjamin Harrison (47.8% popular vote, 58.1% of electoral vote). Cleveland won more than 55% of the popular vote in Texas, South Carolina, Mississippi, Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, Delaware, and Alabama.


Fourth Annual State of the Union Message. "The condition of our Indian population continues to improve and the proofs multiply that the transforming change, so much to be desired, which shall substitute for barbarism enlightenment and civilizing education, is in favorable progress. . . . [we should] complete facilities of education as shall at the earliest possible day embrace all teachable Indian youth, of both sexes, and retain them with a kindly and beneficent hold until their characters are formed and their faculties and dispositions trained to the sure pursuit of some form of useful industry."


Executive Order directing employees of the rail mail service to be added to the classified list, making them subject to examination.




Signs an act to enlarge the powers and duties of the Department of Agriculture and to create an Executive Department to be known as the Department of Agriculture (25 Stat 659).


Signs an act (25 Stat 676) providing that the Territories of Dakota, Montana, and Washington, may become the States of North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Washington; may form constitutions and, in the future, be admitted into the union (all to occur in November 1889).


Inauguration of Benjamin Harrison. Cleveland joins a New York law firm and moves into a house on Madison Avenue. The Cleveland's baby Ruth is born there on 10/03/1891.


Grover Cleveland, Grover Cleveland First Term Event Timeline Online by Gerhard Peters and John T. Woolley, The American Presidency Project

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