Sunday, January 13, 2013

Grover Cleveland: The Philandering President

Victorian America had its share of philandering politicians, including Grover Cleveland the 22nd and 24th President of the United States (the only U.S. president to serve two non-consecutive terms 1885-1889 and 1893-1897).

During the election of 1884, Cleveland’s Republican opponents discovered reports that Cleveland had fathered an illegitimate son while he was a lawyer in Buffalo, and chanted “Ma, Ma, where's my Pa?” in derision. Cleveland admitted to paying child support in 1874 to Maria Halpin, for the maintenance of her son Oscar Folsom Cleveland. Maria Halpin had been involved with several men while an intimate of Cleveland’s, including Cleveland's law partner, Oscar Folsom, for whom the child was also named. Grover Cleveland did not know who the father was, but assumed responsibility.

Despite the scandal, Cleveland won the presidential election of 1884. His backers turned the Republican attack phrase, “Ma, Ma, where’s my Pa?” into a victory slogan, “Ma, Ma, where’s my Pa? Gone to the White House Ha! Ha! Ha!”

Two years after the election, the first presidential marriage to occur in the White House united Grover Cleveland (49) and Frances Folsom (22). Frances was the daughter of Cleveland’s old law partner Oscar Folsom. Cleveland was the executor of Oscar Folsom's estate and had supervised Frances' upbringing after her father's death. Cleveland had known Frances from babyhood and had helped to buy her first baby carriage. A regular visitor to the Folsom house, Cleveland had taken Frances toys. When Frances went off to college, her room was kept bright with flowers from “Uncle Cleve.” For his part, Cleveland confided to his sister that he was, “waiting for his wife to grow up.”

The American public was enchanted with the match and the marriage was a success. The Cleveland’s had five children and were happily married for some twenty two years.

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