His nine page statement of the core principles for the campaign.
The only signed acceptance of presidential nomination letter from a president that we have ever seen reach the market: “Called for the third time to represent the party of my choice in a contest for the supremacy of Democratic principles, my grateful appreciation of its conﬁdence less than ever effaces the solemn...
The only signed acceptance of presidential nomination letter from a president that we have ever seen reach the market: “Called for the third time to represent the party of my choice in a contest for the supremacy of Democratic principles, my grateful appreciation of its conﬁdence less than ever effaces the solemn sense of my responsibility. If the action of the convention you represent shall be endorsed by the suffrage of my countrymen, I will assume the duties of the great office for which I have been nominated, knowing full well its labors and perplexities, and with humble reliance upon the Divine Being, infinite in power to aid, and constant in a watchful care over our favored Nation.”
The 1892 U.S. Presidential election between Grover Cleveland and Benjamin Harrison is the only U.S. Presidential election where both an incumbent U.S. president and an ex-U.S. president ran as the major party nominees. In 1888 the same candidates had fought it out, making this a rematch. The Democrats had seen themselves, ever since the glory days of Andrew Jackson, as the nation’s bulwark against the greed, avarice and self-interest of the wealthy, and of their standard bearer, the Republican Party. Cleveland thus ran on a platform of lowering tariffs, a particularly significant issue since after Harrison took office in 1889, he signed the McKinley Tariff, with its protectionist duties of almost 50%. These very high tariffs made foreign goods too expensive to buy, and the Democrats felt, gave American business a blank check to raise prices. The Democrats also supported the gold standard (something which the party would repudiate in 1896) and opposed the Republican-backed Force Bill (which enabled the federal government to enforce the ability of blacks, predominantly Republican at the time, to vote in the South). In addition, the Democrats criticized the Republicans for causing the Homestead Strike to occur due to their protectionist, anti-worker policies.
The 1892 Democratic National Convention was held in Chicago on June 21–June 23, and it nominated Cleveland, who had been the party’s standard-bearer in 1884 and 1888. This marked the first time a former president was renominated by a major party. In the past notification ceremonies had been semi-private affairs in which notification committees from the national conventions came to the nominee’s residence to notify him officially of his party’s nomination. The nominee would say a few words of gratitude and acceptance to the committee, and shortly after provide a letter confirming his acceptance. In the 1888 election the official nomination acceptance letters of Cleveland and Harrison were not issued until early September, probably for strategic reasons.
These notification practices had been observed by the Republicans in 1892. But facing an incumbent president, the Democrats decided to break with this tradition in two ways. First, instead of a private meeting, two public meetings would be held in New York to introduce the Democratic campaign. The initial meeting took place on July 4, when Tammany held a ratification meeting at its own hall; several prominent Democrats spoke, including the soon to be famous William Jennings Bryan. The meeting ended with Tammany pledging its support to the Cleveland ticket and platform, which was no small thing as Tammany had little use for Cleveland. Next and more importantly, the Democrats held a notification meeting on July 20 at a packed Madison Square Garden, at which Cleveland was notified officially of his nomination. He made a speech at that meeting, and it constituted a landmark. As the author’s wrote in the book “Political Campaign Communication: Principles and Practices”, “It was not until 1892, when Grover Cleveland accepted his nomination for the presidency by speaking at a large public meeting in Madison Square Garden, that acceptance addresses began to assume their current importance.” The Democrats’ decision that a big public meeting – an open demonstration – be held to generate excitement and draw the nation’s attention was a shocking innovation. It was well-received, with the New York Herald declaring “That it is a wise move there can be no doubt….Notification in the presence of 15,000 people cannot fail to give the Democratic campaign a boost.”
It was quickly apparent that neither Harrison nor Cleveland could do much active campaigning in this election, as the health of the First Lady, Caroline Scott Harrison, was failing. Harrison would not leave his wife’s bedside, and Cleveland forbore campaigning out of respect. In fact, his speech to the July 20 meeting was his only public appearance in the campaign. Mrs. Harrison died October 25. So the second innovation was to hold back the candidate’s official, written acceptance letter for the nomination until the midst of the election campaign – late September – and treat that letter not only as indicating a willingness to run, but as a statement of principles and policies. So his acceptance letter, essentially, spoke for Cleveland, where he could not speak in person.
This is Grover Cleveland’s official acceptance letter to the Democratic Party, the only signed acceptance of presidential nomination letter from a president that we have ever seen reach the market, and just the second signed acceptance address. It is contained in publications relating to the 1892 election, such as the “Official Proceedings of the Democratic National Convention”, and is quoted for its content relating to tariffs and the gold standard in such works as “The 19th Century Democratic Party” by Gerring and “American Presidential Elections” by Arthur Schlesinger.
Typed letter signed, his home at Grey Gables, 9 lengthy pages, September 26, 1892, to “William L. Wilson and others, Committee, etc.”
Cleveland won the general election by the largest popular vote margin (3 %) in twenty years. In addition, he won almost two thirds of the Elector College vote, winning all of the states that he won in 1884 in addition to Illinois, Wisconsin and California. Due to winning in 1892, Grover Cleveland became the first (and only, even to this day) ex-U.S. President to be elected U.S. President again. Excerpts from this letter follow.
The Acceptance Letter of Grover Cleveland: Quotations From His Policy Statement For the 1892 Election
* “The protection of the people in the exclusive use and enjoyment of their property and earnings, concededly constitutes the especial purpose and mission of our free government. This design is so interwoven with the structure of our plan of rule that failure to protect the citizen in such use and enjoyment, or their unjustifiable diminution by the government itself, is a betrayal of the people’s trust.”
* “We have, however, undertaken to build a great nation upon a plan especially our own. To maintain it and to furnish through its agency the means for the accomplishment of national objects, the American people are willing through federal taxation to surrender a part of their earnings and income.”
* “Tariff legislation presents a familiar form of federal taxation…Such taxes, representing a diminution of the properly rights of the people, are only justifiable when laid and collected for the purpose of maintaining our government, and furnishing the means for the accomplishment of its legitimate purposes and functions.”
* “Opposed to this theory the dogma is now boldly presented, that tariff taxation is justifiable for the express purpose and intent of thereby promoting especial interests and enterprises. Such a proposition is so clearly contrary to the spirit of our constitution and so directly encourages the disturbance by selfishness and greed of patriotic sentiment, that its statement would rudely shock our people, if they had not already been insidiously allured from the safe landmarks of principle. Never have honest desire for national growth, patriotic devotion to country, and sincere regard for those who toil, been so betrayed to the support of a pernicious doctrine.”
* “These pretenses should no longer deceive. The truth is that such a system is directly antagonized by every sentiment of justice and fairness of which Americans are preeminently proud. it is also true while our workingmen and farmers can, the least of all our people, defend themselves against the harder home life which such tariff taxation decrees, the workingman suffering from the importation and employment of pauper labor instigated by his professed friends, and seeking security for his interests in organized co-operation, still waits for a division of the advantages secured to his employer under cover of a generous solicitude for his wages, while the farmer is learning that the prices of his products are fixed in foreign markets, where he suffers from a competition invited and built up by the system he is asked to support.”
* “The struggle for unearned advantage at the doors of the government trample on the rights of those who patiently rely upon assurances of American equality. Every governmental concession to clamorous favorites invites corruption in political affairs by encouraging the expenditure of money to debauch suffrage in support of a policy directly favorable to private and selﬁsh gain. This in the end must strangle patriotism and weaken popular conﬁdence in the rectitude of republican institutions.”
* “Recognizing these truths, the National Democracy will seek by the application of just and sound principles to equalize to our people the blessings due them from the government they support. to promote among our countrymen a closer community of interests cemented by patriotism and national pride, and to point out a fair field, where prosperous and diversified American enterprise may grow and thrive in the wholesome atmosphere of American industry, ingenuity and intelligence.”
* “The administration and management of our government depend upon popular will. Federal power is the instrument of that will—not its master. Therefore the attempt of the opponents of Democracy to interfere with and control the suffrage of the States through federal agencies, develops a design, which no explanation can mitigate, to revere the fundamental and safe relations between the people and their government… To resist such a scheme is an impulse of Democracy. At all times and in all places we trust the people. As against a disposition to force the way to federal power, we present to them as our claim to their conﬁdence and support, is steady championship of their rights.”
* “The people are entitled to sound and honest money, abundantly sufficient in volume to supply their business needs…Every dollar put into the hands of the people should be of the same intrinsic value or purchasing power. With this condition absolutely guaranteed, both gold and silver can he safely utilized, upon equal terms, in the adjustment of our currency.”
* “Public officials are the agents of the people. It is, therefore, their duty to secure for those whom they represent the best and most efficient performance of public work. This plainly can be best accomplished by regarding ascertained fitness in the selection of government employes. These considerations alone are sufficient justification for an honest adherence to the letter and spirit of Civil Service Reform.”
* “The American people are generous and grateful; and they have impressed these characteristics upon their government. Therefore, all patriotic and just citizens must commend liberal consideration for our worthy veteran soldiers and for the families of those who have died. No complaint should be made of the amount of public money paid to those actually disabled or made dependent by reason of army service. But our pension roll should be a roll of honor, uncontaminated by ill desert and unvitiated by demagogic use.”
* “The assurance to the people of the utmost individual liberty consistent with peace and good order is a cardinal principle of our government.”
* “Our people, still cherishing the feeling of human fellowship which belonged to our beginning as a nation, require their government to express for them their sympathy with all those who are oppressed under any rule less free than ours. A generous hospitality, which is one of the most prominent of our national characteristics, prompts us to welcome the worthy and industrious of all lands to homes and citizenship among us. This hospitable sentiment is not violated, however, by careful and reasonable regulations for the protection of the public health, nor does it justify the reception of immigrants who have no appreciation of our institutions and whose presence among us is a menace to peace and good order.”
* “The importance of the construction of the Nicaragua Ship Canal is a means of promoting commerce between our States and with foreign countries, and also as a contribution by Americans to the enterprises which advance the interests of the world of civilization, should commend the project to governmental approval and endorsement.”
* “In an imperfect and incomplete manner, 1 have thus endeavored to state some of the things which accord with the creed and intentions of the party to which I have given my life-long allegiance. My attempt has not been to instruct my countrymen nor my party, but to remind both that Democratic doctrine lies near the principles of our government and tends to promote the people’s good. I am willing to be accused of addressing my countrymen upon trite topics and in homely fashion, for I believe that important truths are found on the surface of thought, and that they should he stated in direct and simple terms. Though much is left unwritten, my record as a public servant leaves no excuse for misunderstanding my belief and position on the questions which are now presented to the voters of the land for their decision.”
* “Called for the third time to represent the party of my choice in a contest for the supremacy of Democratic principles, my grateful appreciation of its conﬁdence less than ever effaces the solemn sense of my responsibility. If the action of the convention you represent shall be endorsed by the suffrage of my countrymen, I will assume the duties of the great office for which I have been nominated, knowing full well its labors and perplexities, and with humble reliance upon the Divine Being, infinite in power to aid, and constant in a watchful care over our favored Nation.”
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